Monday, August 11, 2014

Florida Fair Redistricting Map

Last July, a 5-4 panel of judges ruled that the maps for Florida's congressional 5th and 10th districts needed to be re-drawn due to VRA violations. No surprise there. Florida has a "Fair Districts Amendment" which requires Florida's legislature to re-draw congressional districts fairly without political considerations. This was similar to California's fair redistricting plan except that California's maps were redrawn by a commission of Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Florida's maps, though, were re-drawn by its Republican-controlled Legislature. While the map they drew in 2011 allowed Democrats to pick up a few seats, Republicans controlled Florida's congressional delegation 17-10 even though President Obama won Florida in 2012. The 5th and 10th districts are key to this issue.

The highly gerrymandered 5th district connects primarily African American neighborhoods in both Jacksonville and Orlando with a few in between in Gainesville. This district voted 71% for President Obama in 2012 while many of the surrounding districts voted 51%-55% for Romney, showing that this gerrymandering prevented Democrats from winning in those other districts. The argument Republicans used for keeping the 5th district intact was that the VRA required that a majority African American district should be drawn. As courts have ruled though, the VRA's goal is to create African American (and Hispanic) majority districts in areas with large African American populations instead of creating a district that connects African American communities that are far away from each other. In this case, Jacksonville and Orlando are more than 100 miles away from each other.

Florida's 10th district was a major beneficiary of the 5th. The 10th represents parts of Lake and Polk Counties, two Republican leaning counties bordering Democratic leaning Orange County (Orlando) and the 10th district also represented part of Orange County. The 5th, though, covered the Democratic areas in Orange County, so the 10th was able to represent more Republican parts of Orange County, keeping the 10th Republican leaning.

The Republican Legislature is tasked with redrawing the 5th and 10th (plus surrounding districts) and their new proposal released on August 7th keeps the Jacksonville to Orlando string on the 5th district and keeps the 10th Republican leaning.

This map is how a fair map of how Florida should be drawn using the California redistricting model of combining communities of interest and creating competitive districts. This map redraws Florida's districts 3-15 and creates two new swing districts. The other districts were not included in the redrawing because they were not affected by the ruling. Here is the old map of Florida's districts:

 Old election results: 

New Florida map: 

New Florida election results: 

Florida's 3rd District:
Ted Yoho (R)
Demographics: 17.5% African American, 8.6% Hispanic, 69.5% White
Lean Republican
The 3rd district represents communities of interest by representing rural areas and small cities in northern Florida. By including Gainesville (University of Florida), and losing Clay County in suburban Jacksonville, this district becomes more Democratic, voting for Romney by 10 points and voting Republican in the 2010-12 average by seven (??). While those numbers show a Republican lean, this district is culturally southern and open to voting for conservative Democrats down-ballot. Senator Nelson in 2012 won the district by seven points. If Democrats are able to find a strong candidate in a good year such as 2016 with Hillary (likely) on the ticket, Democrats have a shot. Also, Rep. Yoho’s suggestion that voting should only be limited to property owners  does not hurt the Democrats' chances either.

Florida's 4th District:
Ander Crenshaw (R) vs. Ron DeSantis (R)
Demographics: 8.8% African American, 6.1% Hispanic, 80.6% White
Safe Republican
The 4th undergoes changes by gaining Clay County and representing communities of interest by representing suburban Jacksonville. This is Romney's best Florida district so no Democrat will win here. The 4th district mostly contains area represented by Crenshaw but also adds DeSantis’s home county - St. John's County with about 200,000 people. . DeSantis may choose to run here because the 6th is a swing district but DeSantis was first elected in 2012 and Crenshaw has served since 2001 (and represents more of the district), putting DeSantis at a disadvantage. But if DeSantis were to win, he would not have to worry about a competitive race in the 6th district every two years.

Florida's 5th District:
Corrine Brown (D)
Demographics: 33.8% African American, 7.9% Hispanic, 4.5% Asian, 51.0% White
Tilt Democratic with Corrine Brown, Lean Democratic with Alvin Brown
The 5th district is now more compact and combines communities of interest by representing urban Jacksonville instead of combining urban Jacksonville with urban Orlando. Even though Bush won the district in 2004, it is trending Democratic so Democrats should have the advantage here barring another year similar to 2010. Brown, though, is disliked by many Democrats by supporting her district's current lines which keep her safe but prevent Democrats from winning in the 10th district. Under these new lines though, Brown will have to fight to keep her seat and may even face a primary challenge from Jacksonville mayor Alvin Brown (D) who can question her ethics issues. Alvin Brown won citywide in Jacksonville and since the 5th district represents most of Jacksonville, Brown is familiar to the voters and his moderate profile should allow him to win in this marginally Democratic seat.

Florida's 6th District:
Vacant (Ron De Santis (R))?
Demographics: 11.8% African American, 12.0% Hispanic, 72.4% White
Pure Tossup
The 6th district loses heavily Republican Putnam and St. Johns Counties and gains Democratic leaning Deltona in Volusia County and Democratic Sanford in Seminole County. These changes bring Romney's margin from 16.4% to 0.2%, making it the closest district in Florida in the 2012 Presidential election. Both Flagler and Volusia Counties in the district are swing counties, supporting Obama in 2008 narrowly and Romney in 2012 narrowly. The representative for the old 6th district (58% Romney) is freshman Ron DeSantis (R) who may run in the new 4th district which is safely Republican and contains his home county. A potential Democratic candidate for the 6th district is young Daytona Beach mayor Derrick Henry (D) who represents the largest city in the district and the center of Volusia County, one of the closest counties in Florida. 

Old map of I-4 Corridor: 

New map of I-4 Corridor: 

Florida's 7th District:
John Mica (R)
Demographics: 9.1% African American, 15.3% Hispanic, 70.3% White
Safe Republican
The 7th district becomes more Republican, going from a 5% Romney win to a 10% Romney win. It loses some close suburbs to Orlando and gains some exurban areas in Lake County. While placing part of Lake County in this district was not ideal due to communities of interest, it was necessary for population reasons. Mica may face a primary challenge from Rep. Daniel Webster (R) who represents the 10th district which has become Democratic under the new lines. With a solid base in his home area of Seminole County though, Mica should be able to win easily, even though parts of the 10th district are now in the 7th.

(The 8th district is not included because it does not undergo any changes. Rep. Bill Posey (R) should have an easy reelection).

Florida's 9th District:
Alan Grayson (D)
Demographics: 9.8% African American, 43.4% Hispanic, 40.3% White
Safe Democratic
This district represents heavily Hispanic suburban Osceola County  and heavily Hispanic parts of Orange County. Rep. Grayson’s reputation for making inflammatory statements about Republicans hurt him when he represented a swing district from 2009 to 2011. His 9th district however, has very minor changes and remains strongly Democratic with President Obama winning 61% of the vote.

Florida's 10th District:
Daniel Webster (R)?
Demographics: 25.6% African American, 19.8% Hispanic, 4.5% Asian, 47.0% White
Likely Democratic
The 10th district undergoes major changes, losing most of Republican Lake County, all of Republican Polk County and gaining heavily African American precincts in Orange County that were formerly represented by the 5th district. As a result, the district is more compact and combines communities of interest by representing (inner- is “central” a better term?) Orlando. These changes would bring President Obama's percentage from 46% to 58% in the 2012 election. Webster will probably not run here because the district is too Democratic. His 2012 opponent and former Orlando Chief of Police Val Demmings (D) may run for this seat.

Florida's 11th District:
Rich Nugent (R)
Demographics: 5.7% African American, 8.5% Hispanic, 82.9% White
Safe Republican
The 11th undergoes a few minor changes, mainly in Ocala and Pasco Counties. The district remains safely Republican and retains its large retiree population.

Florida's 12th District:
Gus Bilirakis (R)
Demographics: 10.7% Hispanic, 80.9% White
Safe Republican
Despite the 12th district voting for Romney by only seven points, Bilirakis has not faced a serious Democratic contender since 2006 in his suburban Tampa district with a large population of retirees. Besides gaining some Republican leaning parts of Pinellas County, the 12th district does not change much.

Florida's 13th District:
David Jolly (R)
Demographics: 12.2% African American, 8.4% Hispanic, 74.0% White
Lean Democratic
In March of 2014, there was a low turnout special election for this seat where moderate Republican David Jolly beat Democrat Alex Sink for this seat by 2 points. While that was a tough election loss for some Democrats, it was not unexpected because the Republican electorate skews much older in this district thanks to the retirees and therefore has high turnout in low turnout elections such as this one. The old district's lines voted for President Obama by one point in 2012 and the new district supported him by ten points. Even though Jolly is moderate, he should be unable to win in a 10 point Obama district. The district becomes more Democratic with the addition of Democratic neighborhoods in St. Petersburg that were in the 14th district and connected by water contiguity.

Florida's 14th District:
Kathy Castor (D)
Demographics: 20.3% African American, 28.9% Hispanic, 45.5% White
Safe Democratic
This district used to combine Tampa and St. Petersburg which violated communities of interest by crossing water. The 14th district now is 100% in Hillsborough County (Tampa) and represents Tampa and some close suburbs. The district voted 61% for President Obama in 2012 though so it should remain safely Democratic.

Florida's 15th District:
Dennis Ross (R) 
Demographics: 13.0% African American, 16.4% Hispanic, 65.7% White
Safe Republican
The district loses a few heavily Hispanic precincts to the 9th district and gains a few from the 10th but otherwise does not change. It remains Republican leaning and continues to represent the fast growing Lakeland area and some Tampa suburbs. 

The other districts remain unchanged. The political results overall show one Democratic seat (the 5th) becoming competitive and the Republicans losing two seats (the 10th and the 13th) and getting a 50/50 chance in another (the 6th). Overall, this map's goal was to suggest a fair map that Florida should draw that increases the number of competitive districts (the 5th and 6th districts) while combining communities of interest into the same district. While it is likely the Republican controlled Florida Legislature will aim to pass a proposal that creates minor changes to the 5th and 10th district, this map shows what needs to be done in order to give Florida voters a fair chance to choose their representatives. 

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