Florida redistricting amendments unlikely to boost Dems in 2012

As reporter Joshua Miller writes, "Democratic strategists in the state currently expect the range of Democratic pickups to be two to four. Given the current climate there, the lower end of that range appears more reasonable."

Okay, so that means two seats. Not that significant, is it?

We'll wait and see how everything plays out, of course. In January, lawmakers are expected to release some "preliminary" maps. Ultimately there are expectations that the issue will go to the courts (challenges to the law by Brown and Republican Mario Diaz-Balart have been unsuccessful so far).

But there's a key paragraph in this story which buttresses what former Sarasota Democrat Keith Fitzgerald told CL in a story about this issue two years ago -- that Democrats tend to live together in masses.

From Roll Call:

Democrats won’t necessarily find themselves with a bonanza of new seats. One 2009 study from professors at Stanford University and the University of Michigan found that because of the nature of the geographic distribution of Democratic voters in Florida, the GOP would have a natural edge in a purely nonpartisan Congressional map.

Fitzgerald, who is running for Congress in Florida's 13th District next year as a Democrat against Republican Vern Buchanan, told CL this in December of 2009:

But even if Fair District Florida were to be successful, Sarasota Representative Keith Fitzgerald isn't convinced that would completely restore balance in the legislature. Fitzgerald, who is also a professor of political science at New College, says the problem with Democrats is that they're concentrated geographically. In many cases, he says, some of the party's natural constituencies, such as highly educated people or low-income citizens, tend to live close together.

That, as well as the fact that these lines are still being drawn up by a political party (and not an independent commission, as in several other states), is why, though the Florida Fair Districts amendments may make congressional and legislative district lines fairer, it's questionable how it will reverse the current state of affairs for Democrats in the Sunshine State, which is desultory, considering that they do have a majority of registered voters in the state.

Currently 19 of the 25 Congressional seats in Florida are held by Republicans. In the state House there are 81 Republicans and 39 Democrats. In the state Senate, there are 12 Democrats and 28 Republicans.

Perhaps the overreach of Governor Rick Scott and the GOP-led Legislature, which clearly turned off independents this past year, might duplicate itself this year, making more R's vulnerable. President Obama's popularity, and the lack of Democratic party enthusiasm (evident right now) could also play a part in the 2012 state elections. But will Fair Districts Florida play any part? Admittedly early, but it's difficult to see how it aids Democrats too much for the short term.

The D.C. based political newspaper Roll Call has a story online Tuesday headlined "Democrats Betting Big on Florida Redistricting," though the subhead is more accurate, reading, "New Fair Districts Law Will Prevent Major GOP Gerrymander, but Huge Gains Are Not Likely."

should have been the headline.

A year ago Floridians of all political stripes overwhelmingly voted in support of Amendments 5 & 6, known as the Fair District Florida measure, that attempts to make the redrawing of legislative and congressional districts more compact, contiguous and fair. In other words, enough with the gerrymandering that always happens when one political party is allowed control of making the maps.

The arguments behind the amendments are sound. There are some absolutely absurdly drawn districts in the state; invariably Jacksonville area Democrat Corrine Brown's seat is mentioned here, though arguably Congressional District 11, currently held by Kathy Castor, is pretty ridiculous. That includes not only Hillsborough County, but a slither of South St. Petersburg and a part of Manatee County. At the redistricting public hearing in Tampa in late August, both self-identified Republicans and Democrats agreed that the seat should not cross the bay.

There's also the argument that Dems have made for years — that despite their dominance in voter registration in the state, the fact that they are so outnumbered in their representation in both D.C. and especially Tallahassee is indicative that the lines are unfairly drawn.

Probably true as well. But as CL has argued since even before the measure was passed last year, Democrats are fantasizing if they believe these measures will get them near parity in the legislature anytime in the foreseeable future.

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