Now that it’s 2011, the redistricting games will soon begin in earnest, with more detailed Census data expected in February or March and some states holding spring legislative sessions to deal with drawing new maps. Long ago I planned to do state-by-state rundowns of the redistricting process as soon as 2010 election results and Census reapportionment were clear. Now that time has arrived, and it’s time to look at Florida, Georgia, and Hawaii.
Extend a thought today to Rep. Giffords, her family, and the families of those killed yesterday in Arizona.
The rest below the fold…
Districts: 27, up from 25 in 2002
Who’s in charge? Republicans
Is that important? Yes, but how important?
To date, Florida’s map has been one of the most effective Republican gerrymanders in the country, with Democrats packed efficiently into six ultra-safe seats: the VRA-protected black-majority 3rd (stretching from Jacksonville to Gainesville to Orlando), 17th (in north Miami), and 23rd (in Palm Beach/Broward), and three liberal, mostly white, urban districts: the 11th (Tampa Bay), 19th (Palm Beach/Broward), and 20th (mostly Broward). There are two seats you could call swing districts – the 8th, around Orlando, and the 22nd, on the north end of South Florida’s wealthy Gold Coast, and at the moment they are both represented by Republicans (Dan Webster and Allen West, respectively).
With the state gaining two seats, the GOP should superficially be primed for more gains, but 19-6 is a pretty lopsided majority in a state that voted for Obama and closely matched nationwide margins in 2000 and 2004. Worse for the Republicans, voters passed referenda in 2010 aimed at curtailing gerrymandering in the state. The language of the initiatives – using terms like “compact” and “existing political/geographic boundaries” – was definitely open to interpretation, but if GOP legislators preserve monstrosities like the 16th, for example, they are likely to face lawsuits on the basis of Amendment 6 (whose own validity is being questioned in court right now by Reps. Brown and Diaz-Balart). Even if Amendment 6 is struck down by the district court, though, it is hard to imagine Republicans carving out another two seats. My guess is they will seek to protect their 19 incumbents, add a new GOP seat along the Gulf Coast, and add a new Dem seat in Central FL (near Orlando or Kissimmee, perhaps) to soak up liberal-leaning voters currently represented by Sandy Adams or Dan Webster.
I have mapped Florida multiple times on DRA and have tried to create a 21-6 GOP majority. As I usually draw the new central district, it could potentially be won by a moderate Republican with appeal in the Hispanic community. But it would be a strong Obama ’08 seat and good territory for a Dem legislator like Darren Soto. Really, 20-7 is about the best any party can hope to do in a swing state, even one that tilts its own way.
Districts: 14, up from 13 in 2002
Who’s in charge? Republicans
Is that important? Sort of
Republicans should have no trouble adding a new GOP seat in the Atlanta suburbs (most likely around Gwinnett, Rockdale, Walton, and Newton Counties), but from there it gets more complicated. Most observers agree they will make Sanford Bishop’s district VRA-protected, adding mostly black areas of Macon to protect Austin Scott from competition in the 8th, but we seem to be divided over whether they will target John Barrow for defeat. Arguments for: he’s white, it’s not a VRA-protected district, and his bases of support in Augusta and Savannah could easily be lumped with neighboring safe Republican districts to ruin any chances he had for reelection. Arguments against: a VRA lawsuit would be inevitable because black voters currently hold sway in the district’s Democratic primaries, Jack Kingston and Paul Broun don’t particularly want a bunch of new Dem-voting constituents, and there are a lot of rural African-Americans in eastern and east-central Georgia who have to go somewhere and will comprise a large portion of the district however it is drawn.
Personally, I don’t think they will target Barrow much; they may attempt to dilute his black % a little bit, or they may do the opposite to make serious primary competition more likely. Either way, there are too many Democrats in that part of the state for mapmakers to crack the district very effectively.
Who’s in charge? Nonpartisan commission
Is that important? No
Well, this is the snoozeville of congressional redistricting right here. Dem incumbents Hirono and Hanabusa are already fairly safe and native son Barack Obama will be on the ballot in 2012. The commission will very slightly tinker with the lines and it should mean nothing for either woman’s reelection prospects.
Later: Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa!