Saturday, May 31, 2014

Florida Gerrymandering Is Real And The Intent Is There

I mentioned before I'm not a huge fan of the gerrymander.

Following up on an earlier story from December 2013, where I noted the state lege and the redistricting committee were facing a court trial over the questionable 2012 mapping, we've got some current testimony to report via Think Progress:

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...
The thing that gets my attention is how in a state where there's a slim majority of registered Democrats and the percentage of seating should be near 50-50 (kinda more 52-48 percent), the Republicans are able to hold a solid 62 percent (74 seats out of 120) of state representative districts compared to the Democrats' 38 percent.  The Florida Senate is 65 percent GOP (24 seats of 40), the US districts are 16 out of 27 for roughly 60 percent GOP (one seat currently vacant but it's a "safe" Republican seat).  There's no way the remaining other-affiliated or non-affiliated voters all leaned Republican in the 2012 election... and while there are some uncontested GOP districts, there's uncontested Democrat districts roughly balancing that all out.

There's no science to this viewpoint, I know: for all this, another explanation would be that the Republicans had better candidates at the state and congressional level.  Of course, considering how Far Right most of these GOP candidates tend to be (to where I can't conceive that many Moderate and Left-leaning voters would go there), that itself seems unlikely.

So let's get back to the experts, shall we?  That Think Progress article referred to the Orlando Sentinel report:

Katz is part of a group of political scientists considered among the nation's foremost experts on redistricting -- developing a standard for evaluating the partisan bias of maps known as "partisan symmetry" which has been used for years by scientists and the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether states were intentionally tilting electoral playing fields to help political parties or incumbents.
The method involves determining how an increase in voter-share translates into an increase in seats in a legislative body like Congress or a state legislature. With a perfectly neutral map, either Republicans or Democrats would gain the same number of seats on average for a given increase in the share of voters they turned out. Seats drawn with partisan intent would disproportionately boost the number of seats for one party over the other...
...His analysis suggested that the pro-GOP bias using 2010 voter-turnout data was 15.9 percent. Intuitively, that means Republicans could expect to capture 58 percent of the congressional seats to Democrats' 42 percent of the seats, even if voter turnout was perfectly balanced at 50 percent GOP and 50 percent Democrat.
Katz said preliminary analysis of the 2012 election results showed the same bias.
“In this case they did a really good job of following the recipe about how to do a partisan gerrymander," Katz testified in the Leon County court room...
The evidence is right in front of us: the Republicans hold a roughly 60-40 percent advantage over Democrats in a state where the voter registration favors Dems 42-37-20 (when you factor in the NPA and Other voters). Even if you give that 20 percent NPA to the Republicans by a 60-40 split, that's 12 percent to the GOP and 8 percent to the Dems, that's still a 50 percent - 49 percent difference, still close to even. And there's no way the NPA voting would go that further Right without the NPA voters pretty much becoming registered Republicans anyway (the remaining independent parties - the very extreme ones - barely have 300,000 voters combined - and I'm not sure if they're Far Right or Far Left - putting them in the statistical hiccup column).

How the hell are the Republicans dominating the representation UNLESS they're cheating via gerrymandering?

My arguments remain the same: we gotta get rid of gerrymandering.  The simplest solution is to boost the number of districts at least at the Congressional level to where it's that much harder to carve up the densely-populated - and more Democratic - cities spread out to the less-dense - and more Republican - remote counties.  And make the districts compact: none of this "spread out over six counties" crap we get for the minority-majority districts (if we go with the increase in districts, the odds favor the creation of minority-populations centers which tend to center on cities and dense-urban locales anyway).  Anything that doesn't stay within two counties of being formed is doomed (and yeah, I know some of the small Panhandle counties are sparsely populated.  We can still keep 'em blocked together, not stretched thin).

For the state-level districts, where expanding the number isn't likely, we need genuine non-partisan map-making: massive oversight of a public forum committee non-beholden to the state legislature or governor, to where the ONLY data they can work with is the basic census population numbers.

There's an even better solution to gerrymandering as well: getting the damn vote out among the Democrats.  The Republicans may have created a majority of districts favoring them, but to do so they had to stretch themselves out to a lot of +1 to +3 districts compared to the +8 to +12 the Democrat-safe districts are.  A massive turnout by Democrats in a Republican-safe district could still overwhelm a normal turnout by Republican voters...  The only real thing keeping those damn GOP-safe districts safe is Democratic voter (and party) apathy.  GET THE DAMN VOTE OUT, DEMS.

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