Meet the new gerrymandered House districts in Florida — same as the old gerrymandered districts, despite a court order that they be redrawn in a way that is not blatantly designed to ensure that Republicans get elected to Congress. I’m guessing this is not going to fly with the judge.
Following orders from a federal judge to redraw the state’s voting district maps, since racial gerrymandering rendered the first draft unconstitutional, Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature unveiled revised maps this week.
But the new maps look quite like the old ones, especially the boundaries of the snakelike District 5, one of the most gerrymandered seats in the country. In his ruling earlier this summer, Federal Judge Terry P. Lewis said District 5 “does not follow traditional political boundaries” and “connects two far flung urban populations” without legal justification. His opinion chided lawmakers, saying districts containing “finger-like extensions, narrow and bizarrely shaped tentacles, and hook like shapes…are constitutionally suspect and often indicative of racial and partisan gerrymandering.”
Winding awkwardly around the center of the state to include the urban centers of Gainesville and Orlando made District 5 about 50 percent African American, and the population has been represented in Washington by Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL), a vocal member of Congressional Black Caucus, since 1992. But packing voters of color into Brown’s district has drained them out of neighboring districts, making those seats in Congress easier to win for Republicans, who–conveniently–were in charge of drawing the map in the first place. Though Florida is a swing-state in presidential elections, Republicans control 17 out of its 27 congressional districts.The new map proposed by state legislators would reduce Brown’s district to 48 percent African-American, while boosting her neighbor’s district–represented by Rep. Dan Webster (R-FL) from 10 to over 12 percent African-American. Other than that tweak, the basic politics of the state are unlikely to change.
The government watchdog groups that challenged the maps in court, the League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause, are not satisfied with the new version, which they call a “slight alteration” that “does a disservice to the voters who have waited too long for constitutional districts.”
We have the same situation here in Michigan, where Obama won the presidential vote easily in both 2008 and 2012 and both of our senators are Democrats based on a statewide vote, yet Republicans control 60% of the seats in Congress and both houses of the state legislature. And it’s almost all due to gerrymandering.