Florida Redistricting, GOP Friendly, Gerrymander Free
Dear Redstaters, I hope this post gets some traction, because I have pulled off what some might have said was impossible: I followed the tangible parts of the Fair Districts law (as compact a shape as possible and respect county and municipal boundaries) while making sure to comply with the Voting Rights Act, yet I still carved out 18 safe (R+5 or greater) and 2 marginal GOP seats in the state of Florida. Most importantly to me, Allen West’s district goes from D+1 to R+5, meaning Mr. West ain’t goin’ anywhere if the legislature adopts something similar to my plan, and, believe me, I’m going to be petitioning everyone in the legislature I can get a hold of to look at my plan.
To give you perspective, Florida currently has just 14 safe GOP seats, meaning, while I unequivocally followed the guidelines of Fair Districts Law (henceforth FDL), and while I am 99% certain that none of my districts could be successfully challenged in court, I actually made the state more friendly for the GOP. Without further adieu, let’s get to the map:
District 1: Jeff Miller (R)
This Pensacola based district goes from R+21 to R+22. Changes are mostly cosmetic in nature, just cleaning up the lines to make it comply with FDL. This seat will never be in Democratic hands.
District 2: Steve Southerland (R)
This district includes Democratic leaning Tallahassee and Republican leaning Panama City. The district as a whole goes from R+6 to R+7. This is the most liberal district based in North Florida. Without FDL, I could help Southerland considerably more than I have here, but, as is, the changes I made were mostly to remove voters from the district, as it was heavily overpopulated. Still, these changes increased McCain’s margin of victory in the district by one point. R+7 is still a strong enough Republican lean that this seat is relatively safe, especially for an incumbent.
While the Panhandle escaped largely without major changes, the rest of the state required some serious redistricting in order to comply with FDL. Luckily, in many cases, the changes do not harm incumbent Republicans. I have included a map of Orlando that you can reference to see changes in that city.
District 6: Cliff Stears (R)
Currently, the district stretches from Jacksonville, through Gainesville and Ocala, down almost to Orlando. I have reformatted the district to include more of the Panhandle (taking much of the 2nd district’s current overflow as well as much territory currently represented in district 4). I shed the Jacksonville and Ocala parts of the district, though it still includes Ocala’s rather rural suburbs, as Marion County is too populated not to split, especially since I have to preserve the 3rd’s black plurality status in order to comply with the VRA. I believe this district achieves the goal of the FDL by creating a single district for Rural North Florida, rather than dividing those citizens among the 2nd, 4th and 6th districts. As a result of these changes, the district goes from an already save R+10 to a rock solid R+14.
District 4: Ander Crenshaw (R)
Currently, the district stretches across the panhandle and wraps around Jacksonville. I have redistricted it to include all of Nassau County, all of Duvall county except two southern precincts, and roughly 20,000 people in Clay county (necessary to achieve population balance due to the 3rd district’s shape). Thus, the district achieves the goal of FDL by creating one district for all the white-majority sections of Jacksonville and many of its suburbs. As a result of the changes, Crenshaw’s district goes from R+17 t R+15, meaning it is still the second most Republican district in the state.
District 3: Corinne Brown (D)
The district loses many of its white rural precincts because the increase in Latino voters in historically Black neighborhoods makes it impossible to create a district with so many white rural precincts without significantly diluting the strength of the black vote. Instead, I have included more of Jacksonville and Orlando areas that are white plurality but with significant black populations. I have also included Black sections of Sanford. The district now goes from Jacksonville to St. Augustine (added) to Gainesville to Ocala (also added) to Sanford to Orlando, with just thin strips of Florida to connect those cities. The district is pretty evenly split between Jacksonville and Orlando, with about 20% of the district falling in the more rural sections, Gainesville and Ocala. Still, the increase in Hispanic voters means Ms. Brown’s district drops from 49 to 48% Black among the voting age population, though it is 51% black overall. As a result of the changes, Ms. Brown’s district goes from D+18 to D+20.
District 7: John L. Mica (R)
The current district stretches from St. Augustine to Daytona Beach. To preserve CD 3′s black majority status, I had to trade downtown St. Augustine for some white majority rural portions of North Florida. I also got rid of Winter Springs and Deltona, as that stretch into Orange County was a clear gerrymander that made the district’s lines very uncompact and ugly. The new district’s lines are pretty compact, and they achieve FDL’s goal by uniting the Northern portions of Florida’s East Coast, without mixing in suburban Orlando voters. While one might argue that the more rural portions of the district do not fit, there simply is no place else for those citizens to go without diluting the black strength of district 3. As a result of the changes, Mica’s district goes from R+7 to R+10, thereby going from a moderately safe district to a very safe district.
District 5: Rich Nugent (R)
The current district stretches along the West Coast and goes inland almost to Orlando. In order to unite the 8th district in population, I had to extend D5 into Orland (the moderately Democratic portions on the West side and the much more Republican suburbs. I had to get rid of the rural portions of Hernando county and all of Pasco county. This district unites two population groups: mostly rural sections of the North Western Florida Coast and Orlando and its suburbs. I also added the Western, white sections of Ocala from the 6th district. To achieve population equity, I did have to include one city in Hernando County. I chose Spring Hill because Nugent already represents this city, and, frankly, because it worked best with population equality. This is the district that would present the most problems defending in court, but I hold that it is still much more compact than the old district, is as compact as I can make the district without violating VRA, and represents my strategic effort to split Florida in the middle and keep districts, as much as possible, based on one coast or the other and go as far inward as I can without breaking the 3rd or 26th districts (more on that later). One might say that the addition of Spring Hill constitutes a Gerrymander to make the neighboring 9th district more Republican. It does achieve this end, but, the truth is, the addition of the coast would likely constitute an even bigger gerrymander in terms of unusual shape, and the rural western portions of the county would not lead to population equality. Thus, my options were to split Pasco county, create a very oddly shaped gerrymander, do some combination of those two options and split Spring Hill, or simply include all of Spring Hill. I chose the latter. As a result of these changes, District 5 goes from R+9 to R+8, but it should be noted that the district went for McCain by 54.4%, meaning it was still almost an R+9 district. Thus, the territory changed significantly, but its Republican strength was not diluted.
District 8: Dan Webster (R)
District 8 was among the districts most targeted by FDL supporters, and, if I’m being honest, rightly so. The current district pairs Rural portions of North Florida (including Ocala) with Altamore Springs (Orlando suburb) with super Latino sections of South Orlando. Clearly, these three groups do not belong in the same district. To rectify this, I shifted the district to the other side of District 3. The new population base is Winter Springs, Deland and Deltona, both suburbs of Orlando (well…Deltona is kind of its own city, but still close enough that it has some Orlando commuters.) It also includes Lake County, which is an Orlando exurb, and Marion County, including the Eastern portion of Ocala. I argue that this district represents the Northern Orlando suburbs and achieves FDL’s goal for uniting North Central Florida into one amazingly compact district. While the old 8 was only R+2, the new district is R+10, turning a swing district into a reliable Republican zone.
District 24: Sandy Adams (R)
The old 24 went from Daytona to Titusville and West deep into Orlando, including, again, many heavily Latino sections that didn’t seem to belong. It also, inexplicably, excluded most of the coast in Adams’ sections of Volusia and Brevard Counties, forcing a pretty ugly gerrymander of district 15. I have rectified those two problems. The boundaries are mostly the same, but 24 drops its portions of Daytona, adds the Volusia/Brevard coasts, drops the Latino sections of Orlando, and adds many of the Republican Orange County suburbs that were removed from the 7th in order to create better boundaries. As a result, the district moves from R+4 to R+6, again turning a swing district into a moderately Republican district. Who would have thought that more compact districts would lead to a Republican advantage?
Central Florida has grown faster than any other part of the state. I’ve also attached maps of the Tampa Bay area, because that area has the most divisions among districts.
District 26: New district, open
District 26 is the lynchpin to my entire plan. I worry that the GOP legislatures might get too greedy and try to create two new Republican districts. They would do this to their detriment, however, as the FDL would make it virtually impossible to create districts without turning the 8th into a solid Democratic district, due to the large and increasing Hispanic populations in Orlando. Those same populations in the Tampa area allow Kathy Castor in the 11th to represent a district that includes Tampa without including most of St. Petersburg, and even the St. Pete sections she does represent would likely get axed from her district under FDL, as they split up the city. She would likely have to absorb a Republican leaning suburb, further diluting the GOP advantage and preventing the legislature from shoring up the 10th and 12th districts, both of which are somewhat vulnerable, especially the 10th. My plan calls for one of the two new districts to unite the Latino communities of Orlando, Winter Haven and Tampa, leading to a district that is majority-minority. While the plan would eliminate one majority minority district (the 11th), that district is white plurality, whereas this district is 47% Hispanic among the voting age population, and 49% overall. Beyond political strategy, lawmakers need to create this district because much of Florida’s growth in the past ten years has come from non-Cuban Hispanics in the I-4 corridor. They deserve the chance to elect their own representative in congress, and my plan gives them such a voice. This district would be D+16, meaning that voice would almost certainly be a Democrat.
District 9: Gus Bilrackis (R)
The current district includes the coast of Hernando County, South and West Pasco County and the Northern Pinelias and Hillsborough suburbs. The new district sheds the Pinelias sections and the western part of Hillsborough and unites Pasco into one district. It is unequivocally a better district under FDL as it contains only the Northern suburbs of Tampa, it unites Pasco county and creates a district with boundaries that are compact and respect existing political boundaries. The district goes from R+6 to R+5, but, as with the 5th, this change isn’t significant, as the new district voted for McCain by 51.4%, just missing the cut for R+6. The GOP might be challenged in a really bad year, and would need to recruit strong candidates when Bilrackis retires, but the GOP’s advantage is moderate at worst.
District 10: Bill Young (R)
The creation of district 26 unequivocally strengthened the 8th and 24th districts by uniting the Latino community rather than spreading them across otherwise reliably Republican districts. The third district that goes from swing to reliably Republican is the 10th district. Because Kathy Castor has to drop the Latino sections of Tampa, she is able to pick up all of St. Petersburg, Pinneilas Park and Largo. Young is left with Clearwater, which delivers strong Democratic margins, the coastal suburbs of Pinneilas, which deliver slight to moderate GOP margins, and the Northeastern sections of Hillsborough, which are strongly Republican. While some Democrats might claim that only keeping the coastal sections near St. Pete is a gerrymander, the district unequivocally respects existing city boundaries, and both the racial and SES makeup of the towns included in 11 differ significantly from those in 10. Further, to create a district with anything approaching perpendicular lines would require splitting St. Petersburg, which is worse than having a slight extension down the Pinnelias coast. By adding that section of Hillsborough and dropping St. Pete and the other two cities, the district goes from R+1 to R+6, a huge jump.
District 11: Kathy Castor (D)
This district lost the Latino sections of Tampa, black sections of Bradenton, and the Bay coast. It added the aforementioned cities in Pinneilas, including St. Pete, and went from D+11 to D+9. In earlier maps, I had this district all the way down to D+5, but then the 26th wasn’t Latino enough to qualify as a protected MM district, and both the 9th and 10th were only R+4. While the thought of ousting Castor is salivating, the smart map exchanges two safe Republican districts for one safe Democratic district. More importantly, the lines of Castor’s new district are much cleaner than in the previous map. She simply crosses the bay on Gangy Blvd. and has a very small, almost entirely urban, working class white district.
District 13: Vern Buchanon (R)
District 13 used to be all of Manatee and Sarasota counties. It now is the Southwestern Half of Hillsborough (picking up sections lost in the 12th and 11th districts, almost all of Manatee (other than the far western portions), and the city of Sarasota. Overall, the change helps Buchanon as his district goes from R+6 to R+7 (in fact slightly more than just a +7).
District 12: Dennis A. Ross (R)
This district had been trending Blue. McCain won 50-48, and Ross failed to break 50% even in 2010. The old district included seemingly Random parts of Hillsborough, all of Winter Haven, and even part of Osceola county. The new district loses all of Hillsborough and Osceola, loses the Latino portions of Winter Haven, and stretches south into Hardee and Highlands Counties. I believe this district achieves FDL goals by giving a voice to the city of Winter Haven and Central Florida in general. The district’s lines are incredibly compact, and McCain’s vote share rises from 50 to 55%. The old district was R+6 and trending blue. Thanks to the creation of District 26, the new district is a very solid R+9.
District 15: Bill Posey (R)
District 26 is the gift that keeps on giving. Posey’s district loses Latino-dominated Kissimmie. It also loses Vero Beach to shore up the 22nd (that is an epic accomplishment I’ll discuss later.) It gains exurban sections of Orange County as well as the Southern parts of Orlando that are surrounded by the two minority majority districts. The boundaries are still very compact, and the district respects city lines. District 15 goes from R+6 to R+8, putting it very much out of reach for Democrats.
District 27: New District, Open
This new district includes all of Charlotte and DeSoto Counties, all of Sarasota county except the actual city of Sarasota, Sanibel Island and Cape Coral from Lee county. It is a solidly Republican R+8.
Southwest Florida is cherry Red. Southeast Florida is so blue that it single handedly wipes out the GOP’s advantage in the rest of the state. In fact, Southeast Florida is so blue that you cannot carve out a single non-Cuban Republican district in Palm Beach, Broward or Dade counties. Believe me, I spent hours trying.
District 22: Allen West (R)
Without FDL, Allen West’s district could be kept to D+1. However, Democrats have been salivating to take him on, assuming that his district, being the most obviously gerrymandered in the entire state, and maybe even the entire country, would get demolished. Not so fast. First of all, we cannot dismantle the 23rd, and we cannot wrap a district around the 23rd. You just can’t do it. So it’s clear that, to keep a MM district, we need another district that includes only the coastal beach towns of Palm Beach and Broward, down to Ft. Lauderdale. What we can’t do anymore is let the 19th sneak around the 23rd in some mysterious fashion and snatch the super liberal white enclaves that haunt the coastline. We also can’t have a random leg deep into Broward below the 23rd to get the slight Republican parts of Broward in the middle. If my argument is that the 22nd represents wealthy coastal dwellers, the best I could do in a Palm Beach/Broward/Dade district under FVL is D+5. West would be gone sooner than you can say Obama. However, by extending the “Coastal” district all the way to Vero Beach, I turn West’s district from D+1 to R+5, even under FVL.
District 16: Tom Rooney (R)
The downside to my terrific reshaping of D-22 is that I have to shaft poor Tom Rooney. Rooney’s current district stretches coast to coast and is gerrymandered to the extreme. Now he has all of south central florida and the Keys. This is the one district that may hurt the GOP, but I completely support it because it unites all of South Central Florida, and keeps the keys from being in a majority Latino district. While the district turns Rooney’s district into an R+2 district, from an R+5, that number is deceiving. I live in Palm Beach County. The new D16 includes Wellington and Royal Palm (except the African-American Sections) in Palm Beach County, and Parkland in Broward County. Obama’s margin of victory in this district (52-48) came mostly from these sections. The remainder came from Key West. I can’t do anything about Key West, but Wellington contains “soft” Democrats. These residents are in Rooney’s current district, and consistently vote for Republican congressmen. They broke for Rubio last year, and have a Republican state rep and senator. The point is, while I think the district is still competitive and somewhat of a “swing” district, I think it is actually a bit safer than the R+2 indicates. Rooney is also a relatively new congressman, so he shouldn’t be able to complain too much about the dilution of his district. The alternative to this plan would have given the Keys and the southern half of Rooney’s central florida portion to D-20, and Rooney would have kept the coastal sections of St. Lucie, Martin and Northern Palm Beach. His district would have been R+5, as it is now, but then West’s district would have gone D+5. In other words, I was forced to choose between an R+5/D+5 combo, and an R+5, R+2 combo, due to the FDL regulations. Please forgive me for choosing the latter, even if it puts Rooney and the seat in general at risk.
District 19: Ted Deutch (D)
This district gets cleaned up a lot. It is much more rectangular, and includes most non-coastal, non-black incorporated areas of Palm Beach county. D-22 gets the coastal parts, D-23 gets the black sections, and D-16 gets the more rural sections at the far western edge. It actually becomes less Democratic, going from D+15 to D+12. It is still very safe for the D’s.
District 23: Alcee Hastings (D)
To clean up the district in accordance with FDL, I removed Belle Glade and the rural Western parts of Palm Beach County from this district. It is still majority black. Unlike D-3 and D-26, the strips connecting Palm Beach and Ft. Lauderdale aren’t random. For whatever reason, African-Americans tend to live along I-95. I have no idea why. The one exception is Boca Raton. The sections in D-23 are just the western edge of Boca, because Boca is very white. You’ll see that D-22 includes almost all of Boca for this reason, going farther away from the coast than at any other point except Palm Beach Gardens and Jupiter, which are also both very white. The district stays 50% black and D+28.
District 20: Debbie Downer (D)
Okay so her real last name is Wasserman-Schultz, but Debbie Downer is such a better name for her! This district also gets cleaned up significantly. She gets the white and Hispanic, non-Cuban majority sections of South Broward County and North Dade. She drops from D+12 to D+10, but don’t get excited. She’s unfortunately staying with us for a long time.
District 17: Frederica Wilson (D)
Black Sections of Miami and South Broward. Not much to talk about. Stays 53% black and D+34, the most Democratic district in the state. The boundaries don’t change much.
District 21: Mario Diaz-Balart (R)
I cleaned up all three Cuban districts in Dade county. Diaz-Balart drops the southern half of his district and goes slightly farther west instead, picking up Hialeah Gardens and Coral Gables to replace it. His district stays R+5, but, of course, the Cubans are more likely to vote for Cuban Republicans than White Republicans, so this district is even safer than it appears.
District 18: Ileana Ros-Leithenan (R)
She drops the Keys and Homestead. She gains all of the Miami Beach Peninsula, Kendall and Glenview Heights. Her district goes from R+3 to R+5. She’s going to retire sooner than Rivera, so we’ll have to defend it in the next decade, most likely. R+5 is easier to defend than R+3, which is why I turned her district into the R+5 and turned Rivera’s into R+3.
District 25: David Rivera (R)
I feel bad for Rivera. He loses the Republican heavy northern portion of his district, gains Florida City (Dem stronghold), but also gains some Republican coastal sections from D-18. His district goes from R+5 to R+3, but, again, Cubans break more heavily for Cuban Republicans than they do at the national level. If Rivera retires, this district might be hard to hold. I am considering it one of the two swing districts (with 16), but, so long as Rivera remains, he can probably win reelection even in a wave year.