FL Senate Releases Redistricting Proposal

Politicos and data nerds everywhere have had an exciting week. On Monday the Florida Senate released it's proposal for new Congressional and state Senate maps. Much is being said on both sides of the aisle about the maps, the Republicans saying they stuck to Amendments 5 & 6 and hailing the process as the most transparent yet. Democrats are saying the maps are still gerrymandered to favor Republicans.

Rather than even attempting to analyze all the data, I'm going to let the fine folks at the St. Petersburg Times do it. Check out this article posted today. 


First redistricting maps tend to favor Republicans

By Mary Ellen Klas, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau 
In Print: Wednesday, November 30, 2011


TALLAHASSEE — Despite creating political maps using no political data, two redistricting proposals by Florida's Republican-led Senate favor Republicans, consolidate voters in Democratic districts and compress minority seats, aTimes/Herald analysis shows.

But the maps released on Monday by the staff of the state Senate Reapportionment Committee also put incumbent Republicans — such as U.S. Reps. David Rivera of Miami, Steve Southerland of Panama City and Tom Rooney of Palm Beach — in less reliable districts than the ones they represent today.

Senate leaders defended the maps Tuesday, saying they adhere to new constitutionally imposed rules that prohibit lawmakers from drawing districts that favor incumbents or political parties while also protecting the voting strength of racial and ethnic minorities.

"There wasn't an intent to put more or fewer Democrats or Republicans in any seat because we don't have party data in our software,'' said Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, head of the Senate redistricting committee. "We followed the law and it inconvenienced some Republicans and it inconvenienced some Democrats. No matter how a line is drawn in a House, Senate, or congressional district, someone is going to see a boogeyman behind the line."

The maps are the first in a series of redistricting proposals to be debated by lawmakers in January and include many of the sprawling districts that voters thought they were eliminating when they voted for the so-called Fair Districts amendments on the November 2010 ballot. The reason, said Gaetz, is the need to give top priority to protecting existing minority districts even if "the geometry is far from pretty."

"This really does permanently create gerrymandered districts, but that's the way Fair Districts was written,'' said Henry Kelley, an Okaloosa County Tea Party leader. He added that the Senate maps "were brilliantly engineered to protect incumbents and get incumbents re-elected," he said.

Senate leaders did not include voter registration information or how districts voted in previous elections when they drew their maps, but using data provided by the House redistricting committee, the Times/Herald looked at how the proposed Senate districts performed in the past two elections.

The analysis shows that of the 27 congressional districts, 14 of them strongly favor Republicans and favored both John McCain in the 2008 presidential race and Rick Scott in the 2010 race for governor. Another 10 congressional districts strongly favor Democrats and supported Barack Obama for president and Alex Sink for governor.

In the state Senate, the proposed maps strengthen some Republican districts but weaken others. According to the Times/Herald analysis, 24 of the 40 Senate districts are solidly Republican based on performance in the last two elections and 14 are Democratic — up from the current 12 held by Democrats — and another two lean Republican.

Read the rest at tampabay.com


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