Friday, March 6, 2009

More on Florida Redistricting

Brownsox wrote Sunday about the Fair Districts Florida initiative that is gathering signatures now (A New Hope For Redistricting in Florida). I wrote about this, too, in my last post. So I worked up a congressional district map (with the current 25 districts), to see what fair districts might look like. Here's what I came up with: Possible Florida CDs Click to see it full size. First, the methodology: I've written a web application (soon available for everyone on the web for free) that allows you to create the congressional districts as you want. It's built using Silverlight (Microsoft's Flash-like software). I've used the 2000 census data (population broken down by ethnicity) for census block groups, which are a little bigger than voting districts. For Florida, I simply started in the northwest and worked my way down. I tried my best to keep counties together and to keep smaller cities together. Also, I tried to keep larger cities in as few chunks as possible. And I used no partisan data (which I don't have anyway). This follows the Fair Districts Florida guidelines which say
(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.
The largest deviation any districts has from the average size is 699 people, which is a little more than .1%. Not bad, especially using the larger census block groups. Now, here's what the current districts look like (National Atlas PDF). There are so many differences. Since I do not have voting data for the census block groups, I can't do a more precise analysis on how this would change the congressional makeup, but here are a few comments on areas where my new map is very different and may open up more competetive opportunities: -- CD 3 is entirely in Duval County, the Jacksonville area, instead snaking all the way down to Orlando. Should still be a safe Dem seat. -- Tampa area: currently there are 2 Reps (old CDs 9 and 10) and 1 Dem (old CD 11, which is packed with both the heart of St, Pete and Tampa. In my more sensible districting, St. Pete and Clearwater are have 1 district (CD 13) and most of Tampa is in another (CD 12), both of which would likely be Dem. -- Around Orlando, Seminole County is within only 1 district. Then Orange County is split between 2 districts. Dems have 2 of the districts in that area already (old CDs 8 and 24); perhaps this would give us an opportunity to get another seat (new CDs 6, 8 and 9). -- Around Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and Palm Beach, the new map keeps counties and cities much more together. Reps have 3 districts (old CDs 18, 21 and 25). Mostly likely the new map does not help Dems with at least 2 of those (new 24 and 25), but could facilitate picking up 1 seat in the area. -- Note on Hendry County: it looks odd because the census block groups is very large in area. With the finer grain of voting districts, this could be smoothed out. In any case, though, there are not that many people in that county. Now, I have to admit that the language in the petition is vague enough that those in control will still be able to bend the process in their direction. So, we won't necessarily see maps as straight forward, and non-partisan, as this. But it will be a lot better than what we have now. I expect to have my app available within a month, with a lot more states, so you can try this on your own. That's all for now. Thanks.