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Redistricting Expert: Florida’s Gerrymandered Maps Give An 8 Point Advantage To Republicans

By Ian Millhiser

"Redistricting Expert: Florida’s Gerrymandered Maps Give An 8 Point Advantage To Republicans"

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Rene Garcia

CREDIT: AP Photo/Chris O’Meara

If Florida’s voters evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, the state’s Republicans could still expect to hold 58 percent of the state’s congressional seats. Indeed, according to California Institute of Technology statistics professor Jonathan Katz, a leading expert on redistricting who testified in a trial challenging these maps as an illegal gerrymander, Florida’s maps are the most biased districts he has ever examined.

Although Florida has some of the most biased congressional districts in the country — in 2012, President Obama narrowly won the state but Republicans captured 17 of the state’s 27 congressional districts — the League of Women Voters and other plaintiffs challenging Florida’s maps face an uphill battle in their lawsuit. Under a state constitutional amendment enacted in 2010, “[n]o apportionment plan or district shall be drawn with the intent to favor or disfavor a political party or an incumbent.” Thus, the plaintiffs in this lawsuit do not just have to prove that the maps are biased, they have to prove that they were drawn with the intent of favoring Republicans. As neither the plaintiffs nor their lawyers have ESP, that’s a difficult bar to clear.

Nevertheless, they have produced a considerable record suggesting that such intent exists. Beyond Katz’s testimony that Florida’s map is unusually biased, Stanford political science professor Jonathan Rodden presented research finding that it is “virtually impossible” that Florida produced its congressional map without some degree of intent.

In 2012, Democratic House candidates won over 1.3 million more votes than Republicans. And, yet, Republicans control the House thanks, in part, to gerrymandering that extended well beyond Florida:

gerrymander GOP

Shortly after the 2012 elections, the Republican State Leadership Committee released a report boasting that gerrymandering “paved the way to Republicans retaining a U.S. House majority in 2012.”

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