Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Marcia Fudge (D-OH) sent a letter to the DCCC last week protesting their suit over the Florida redistricting. DCCC had challenged the Florida map in the hopes of whittling down the Republican majority in the House. CBC objects because, apparently, one of the most gerrymandered districts in the state is Florida 5, which was specifically mentioned by the judge as one needing work, but it is also home to Representative Corrine Brown, a member of the CBC and a minority representative in Congress.
I have long blogged a big part of the reason Republicans hold the advantage is not because they have been guilty of gerrymandering in their own representatives, necessarily– if you gerrymander your own member’s districts, you have to do the same for your opponents as well, because you can’t leave out any voters and each State is apportioned so many representatives. Rather, this is because Democrat voters tend to be urbanized, meaning densely concentrated, and federal judicial decisions require contiguous districts. Additionally, the federal courts require a certain minimum number of minority-majority districts to maintain minority representation in Congress, almost all of whom are Democrats. Thus, by the time you set aside enough minority voters to elect minority representatives, and then obey the contiguous requirements, you wind up with a smaller number of Democrat districts which are overwhelmingly Democrat, like in the 70-90% range. This is “wasteful” of Democrats, who might have taken more seats if they could be spread out more. Nor am I alone in holding this opinion: Nate Cohen over at TNR says much the same. And Byron York of the Washington Examiner, electoral wonkmeister par excellence, did an analysis following the 2012 election in which he examined the districts in– if memory serves– 6 states and found he could not draw legal districts that would have given the Democrats even one more seat. The best he could do was maybe pick one up by moving a few D precincts across the district boundaries to make the receiving district more competitive, but so doing also threatened D dominance in the donating district.
The bottom line on this is pretty simple. Federal court cases involving electoral matters are no so thick, and have resulted in so many rules, there’s very little State legislators can do to affect the outcome. Much of where the district lines must be drawn is mandated. My home State of Texas has trouble doing it, and we’ve got 4 major metro areas (or 5, depending on your definitions of “major” and “metro”), plus a large Black population primarily concentrated in one part of the State, and more than 30 districts to work with. This Florida thing will not have a happy outcome for anybody.