Redistricting outlook: Florida-Hawaii

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.

Previous diary on Alabama, Arizona, and Arkansas

Previous diary on California, Colorado, and Connecticut

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.



Districts: 2

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!

16 thoughts on “Redistricting outlook: Florida-Hawaii”

  1. Florida – Expect the Republicans to push the boundaries of what they can get away with. The only Republican who’s doomed is Allen West; there’s no way the monstrosity of FL-22 can survive with the new rules. It will also probably mean that the Democrats get an Orlando-based seat. On the other hand, Corinne Brown could very well be doomed, unless the Republicans can argue that her district (which is 49% black) must be maintained to satisfy the VRA.

    Georgia – Given that this is one of two states that redistricted as soon as the Republicans achieved the trifecta, I don’t see why they won’t try to max out the map. There’s little drawback to targeting Barrow, as the surrounding seats are pretty solidly Republican. They could cut Augusta out of the district and put it in GA-10, or put the rest of Savannah in GA-01, and either would still remain a Republican seat. In addition, they could dump Macon into GA-02 to make the district majority-black; that could counter any VRA arguments regarding the black population in GA-12.

  2. I think it’s highly implausible that any judge would strike down Amendment 6. Most of the discussion that I’ve seen regarding the VRA lawsuit has been too black or white IMHO. If a judge deems Amendment 6 to be problematic in light of the VRA, then I think he or she would issue a simple, direct statement that the state law is subordinate to federal law. In other words, that VRA compliance must be assured and then Amendment 6 must be assured.

    I also fail to see how Amendment 6 could be deemed problematic in the first place. Here’s the wording of the Amendment:

    In establishing Congressional district boundaries:

    (1) No apportionment plan or individual district shall be drawn with the intent to favor or disfavor a political party or an incumbent; and districts shall not be drawn with the intent or result of denying or abridging the equal opportunity of racial or language minorities to participate in the political process or to diminish their ability to elect representatives of their choice; and districts shall consist of contiguous territory.

    (2) Unless compliance with the standards in this subsection conflicts with the standards in subsection (1) or with federal law, districts shall be as nearly equal in population as is practicable; districts shall be compact; and districts shall, where feasible, utilize existing political and geographical boundaries.

    (3) The order in which the standards within sub-sections (1) and (2) of this section are set forth shall not be read to establish any priority of one standard over the other within that subsection.

    How one might seriously argue that Amendment 6 conflicts with the VRA, when it not only explicitly states that it is subordinate to federal law (and hence, the VRA) but essentially reiterates the requirements of the VRA as part of state law, is a mystery to me.

    As for “compact” my expectation is that any court examining a challenge will use the conventional legal interpretation of the term: Which is compactness as defined by geographic proximity of the district population. The California initiative made this explicit; the Florida initiative did not. However, the legal meaning of the term is very well-established by precedent.

    This is not to say that the Florida GOP won’t try to get around the provisions of the initiatives, but they do so at their peril. A court-drawn map is likely to be far less GOP favorable than a legislative map consistent with the new requirements.

  3. Regardless of the new law, the VRA will mandate that Alcee Hastings’ district be black-majority. That is guaranteed to produce some very ugly lines, as there is no way to draw two neat-looking VRA black seats in South Florida. Because FL-23 is required to be ugly and split up communities of interest, that means that at least some of the districts around it will have to take on strange shapes to pick up the territory the 23rd meanders around. Look at SC-01, NY-09, and NC-03 for example–all of which are forced into non-compact shapes by neighboring VRA districts. The GOP might use this as a marriage of convenience in an attempt to save West.

  4. HI NH  RI Maine ID as they are interesting in their own.

    HI has more or less the same lines since statehood except for several years HI had at large districts.  Yup the whole state had two congressional seats.

    Don’t be too quick to dismiss the HI lines.  Its actually a bit of nifty democratic plan.  The more democratic parts Honolulu county is crammed into HI1.  The out portions of Honolulu county are more republican then the island as a whole.  If you attached downtown Honolulu and its inner suburbs to the other islands HI2 would be massively democratic while the remainder of Honolulu county (CD1) would be quite a bit more republican.  For instance in 2004 Bush won the outer parts of Honolulu county in HI2 but 3000 votes but lost HI1 by 10000 votes.  

    That being said the current arrangement is probably more logical as Honolulu city should dominate its own district as opposed to being attached to the outer islands.

  5. Florida is kind of interesting in the sense that we pretty much exactly know where the new districts are going to be.

    One is going to have to be a plurality-hispanic VRA seat in Orlando – it’s easy to draw and you’ll see a lawsuit if they don’t. Plus it does wonders to help secure 7, 8, 15, 24, and even 12 if you do it right. Somebody may have to move (Amendment 6 kinda forces you to remedy the insane situation of Mica, Webster, and Adams living within 5 miles of each other) but they’ll all emerge with much nicer districts.

    The other is going to be centered around Punta Gorda. I’ve tried a bunch of permutations, but IMHO it’s nearly impossible to put that new seat anywhere but Charlotte Harbor. That area has been growing explosively and can’t be cut up among 3 far-flung congressional districts any longer.

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