Meet the New Florida Gerrymander, Same as the Old Florida Gerrymander

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 11 2014 5:19 PM

Meet the New Florida Gerrymander, Same as the Old Florida Gerrymander

In November 2010 the voters of Florida sent Marco Rubio to represent them in the Senate, Rick Scott to represent them in the governor's office, and a bunch of Republicans to take over open or contested seats. They also passed a ballot measure that would have ended the majority party's monopoly on gerrymandering House seats. It was no secret that this would hurt the GOP, and the ruling party spent big to defeat it, as the Ohio Republicans would spend to defeat a similar measure in 2012. But in Florida, the measure won. The map that gave 50–50 Florida a congressional delegation of 19 Republicans and six Democrats could not survive.

It couldn't, unless Republicans and black Democrats teamed up to save it. And so they did. One of Gov. Scott's first actions was rejection of the ballot measure; Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart teamed up with Rep. Corrine Brown, whose 5th District cut across the black populations from urban Jacksonville to urban Orlando and gave Democrats 2–1 landslide wins. But they eventually lost, and in July, a judge ruled for the supporters of the ballot measure by saying two districts had been drawn illegally to aid Republicans.

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What happened next was a bold reassertion of Republican control. The state Senate, given until Aug. 15 to draw a new map, finished its work early and voted it through. If you click that link and look for the 5th District, you may notice that it still snakes from Jacksonville, down into the Orlando area. As Alice Ollstein pointed out, "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." 

The alliance is unbroken. This is really part of the plan for continuing Republican dominance of congressional and legislative delegations for years. In every Republican-run state with a significant black population, the reliably Democratic black vote is packed into as few districts as possible—Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania. As Rick Scott showed in 2010, this is one aspect of Voting Rights Act preclearance that the Republican-run states are perfectly OK with.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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