Little more than a week ago the Florida Supreme Court ruled that Florida’s Congressional district map violated the state’s 2010 passed Fair Districts Amendment. The process was supposed to remove politics from redistricting but opponents of the current map argued the GOP dominated statehouse continually violated the Amendment. Last week the Florida Supreme Court agreed and ordered the state to change eight districts, the 5th, 13th, 14th, 21st, 22nd, 25th, 26th and 27th, five GOP and three Democratic districts. Changing these districts will inevitably impact other districts.
The ruling prompted the state legislature to call a special session in early-middle August to vote on a new map. The districts included (listed above) run the gambit of an African-American majority district (5th) to many South Florida, heavily Hispanic districts. The redraw will also have significant political repercussions for the state’s Congressional delegation.
By far, the district most likely to change is the majority black 5th District represented by Corrine Brown. The district was created in 1990 by the courts to elect a black Representative and was largely left alone in 2000 and 2010 to pack black voters into one district. The districts snakes down the state, hitting Jacksonville, Gainesville, and Orlando. In addition, it grabs pockets of African-Americans in Putnam and Seminole counties. The district is 52% African-American and heavily Democratic. Odds are good that the district’s Northern edge, anchored in Jacksonville, will be given up to neighboring GOP districts. This would make the neighboring GOP districts more Democratic but far from swing districts.
Moving further south the GOP controlled 13th and Democratic 14th will likely merge, making the 13th to Democratic for a Republican to hold. Indeed, Congressman David Jolly, the GOP Representative of the 13th, acknowledged as much when he announced he was running for Senate last week. Charlie Crist, hailing from the St. Petersburg based 13th, is likely to run making it a virtual lock for the Democratic Party.
The area most likely to be impacted will be South Florida encompassing the Democratic 21st and 22nd Districts and the GOP controlled 25th, 26th and 27th Districts. The 21st District is a solidly Democratic district anchored in the suburbs of Boca Raton and Palm Springs. The 22nd is a Democratic leaning district anchored in Palm Springs and Boca Raton. Likely these districts will become more compact and the 21st will shed Democratic voters to make the 22nd more compact and more Democratic in the process.
The 25th, 26th and 27th are all GOP controlled marginal districts. The 25th is a district that is anchored in the outskirts of Miami Dade and snakes eastward and North to take in more Republican precincts. The district has long been represented by Hispanic Mario Diaz-Balart. The 26th is a sprawling majority-minority Cuban Hispanic district spanning most of the Southern tip of the state. The 26th was controlled by Democrats until last year. The 27th is barely more Republican than the 26th but is represented by longtime Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen who has rarely faced a tough reelection.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what changes will do to this neighboring set of districts. Odds are good the 25th will become more Democratic as it sheds its rural Northeastern section to become more anchored in the Miami-Dade outskirts. The 26th and 27th are likely to remain swing districts and it seems likely the 26th will shed some of its size to the 27th for compactness.
These eight districts changing will also impact neighboring districts which is why it is so hard to calculate how it will impact South Florida. Likely much of the political terrain for that area will be in flux until 2016. Up north, the district most likely to be impacted will be the 2nd. If the 5th sheds its Tallahassee based anchor it will need to pick up population from somewhere and also maintain its majority-minority designation under the VRA. To do this and draw compact maps it is likely the 3rd district will shed its black population and actually pick up some of the 2nd’s. The 2nd district, represented by Democrat Gwen Graham, with a PVI of R+6 would become even more Republican and likely to conservative for Graham to hold, especially against a decent GOP nominee.
The most likely changes to the map would yield Democrats a likely gain of one or two seats. If the GOP has a good year the party could gain the 18th which Congressman Chris Murphy is vacating as well as the 2nd and minimize their losses to one (13th) to two seats (South Florida). If Democrats have a good year the new map could be a godsend to the party and send the GOP’s Congressional delegation plummeting.