Redistricting Must Be Done Fairly


Congressional redistricting in Florida is big business, since it will divide 18,801,310 Floridians into 27 districts of roughly 696,345 each. Depending on how the Republican majorities in the state government draw the lines, the GOP could win 24 of 27, even though the number of voters supporting each party was evenly divided in the last presidential and gubernatorial elections.

If theoretically the Republicans could herd 696,345 Democrats into each of three districts from Jacksonville to Orlando, Tampa to St. Pete, and in Miami, they could quarantine off a total of 2,089,035, leaving only 7,311,620 to face 9,400,655 Republicans in the state’s remaining 24 districts.

They could then determine the number of Democrats in the other 24 districts by dividing the remaining 7,311,620 by 24, which comes to 304,650, and could apportion the Republicans per district by dividing 9,400,655 by 24, which comes to 391,693.

Since 391,693 Republicans per district would represent 56% of the vote, and 304,650 Democrats per district would be only 44% of the vote, the Republicans could win 24 districts this way, while losing only three, despite equal statewide votes for each party.

The process of manipulating districts to engineer an outcome is called gerrymandering. To be sure, Republicans will certainly engage in it, while simultaneously denying any intent to do so. Frankly, I would be shocked if each of the Congressional Districts were drawn to have 348,172 Democrats and 348,172 Republicans.

With the help of the U.S. Supreme Court in Easley v Cromartie (2001), the herding of blacks in North Carolina into one oddly-shaped gerrymandered district was approved in a 5-4 vote. Now, blacks do not object to these heavily concentrated districts, as they help their candidates score easy victories.

What they may not realize is they are being used by Karl Rove Republicans to create disproportionately more Republican seats, as explained above. The loss of Democrats in the House also affects state-wide races, like the recent U.S. Senate contest, because it reduces the number of candidates qualified to run for statewide office. In the last race, Democrat Kendrick Meek of Miami, a black man, was beaten badly in a statewide contest. The Democrats could have won that race with a stronger candidate, but their bench was weak due to gerrymandering.

When I moved to the Tampa-Bay area, I was shocked to see the extent of gerrymandering used to create a Democratic district. The blacks of St Petersburg, in Pinellas County, were combined with the non-whites of Tampa, in Hillsborough County, located clear across the Tampa Bay (body of water). This certainly explains why Republicans won most seats in the urban Tampa Bay area. Hopefully, the media will expose gerrymandering this time, and contiguous districts will be fairly drawn.

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2 Comments to “Redistricting Must Be Done Fairly”

  1. Thanks for this thoughtful piece. The Fair Districts amendments would set up a more fair process that would help us sort out all of these competing interests. Unfortunately, state lawmakers are using taxpayer money to try to keep these citizen approved reforms from being implemented. http://bit.ly/lOk3Jg

  2. The Fair Districts amendments were a step in the right direction. Districts need to be contiguous and counties should not be divided, if possible. We will see if the Republicans intend to follow the new statewide amendments, or instead listen to their own Karl Rove types, who will encourage the same old gerrymandering of the past.

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