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This is a mirror of a post from my website.  You can find the original article here

Through 2011 and 2012, Broward County, the second largest county in Florida, went through its redistricting process.  The 9-member county commission, made up of 8 Democrats and 1 Republican, had to redraw the commission lines in preparation for the 2012 elections to account for population shifts over the last 10 years.  The commission held hearings, took testimony, and allowed groups and citizens to submit maps.  After months of debate and proposals, the commission settled on a final map.

The heavy blue lines are the new boundaries while the different colors represent the different cities (35 in total) of Broward.  If the lines look convoluted to you then you aren’t the only one.  Cities are broken up for no legitimate reasons and reports of the commissioners using their influence to ensure favorable turf were well reported in the press.  The lines also produced districts who’s racial makeup do not match the county at-large.  In fact, the districts appear to willfully split the minority voters, especially Hispanics, across lines, diluting their power.

Broward County is is a very racially diverse region of the state.  As the 2010 Census, it is 43% White, 27% Black, and 25% Hispanic.  However, the redistricting of the commission boundaries produced 7 white districts, 1 black district, and one district tied between Black and Hispanic residents.

How did that racial breakdown come about?  Look to the next map, which shows each census block in Broward colorized by their dominant racial makeup.  See the where the commission lines go.
The lines crack Hispanic pockets of voters across different districts.  Hispanic pockets in the west and south are spread out over four different districts.  Meanwhile the black community in the center of the county is packed heavily into one district rather than aiming for a second minority district in the area.

These lines go out of their way to split minority voters up. This is not an issue of drawing weirdly drawn districts to create minority districts; rather it is a case where compact districts that gave minority voters a united say where scrapped in favor of politically-motivated, oddly drawn, boundaries.

The commission cannot claim that the above map was the best that could have been done.  Below is a cleaner, fairer, map that I created.

I aimed to balance three criteria when creating the boundaries above. 1) Increase minority voter power 2)  Be as compact as I can, and 3)  Respect city boundaries where possible.  These three tasks are a tough balancing act.  Many of Broward’s cities are very un-compact and several of them are racially split.  Southern cities like Miramar and Pembroke Pines have strong east-west racial differences.  With criteria 1 being most important, a racially divided city would be split.

The results were much more in tune with Broward’s racial makeup. Four districts where white, 1 was majority black, 2 where plurality black, and 2 where plurality Hispanic.

Creating a majority Hispanic district would have required sacrificing the second Hispanic seat.   The full breakdown of the new districts is below.
Hispanic voters are the plurality in districts 1 and 3, but also are strong minorities in districts 2 and 7.  African-Americans are favored in districts 2, 6,and 7; especially when the Democratic primaries, which would tilt more African-American, decide most races in Broward.  The map makes it so that minorities could make up 5 of the 9 commissioners.

While also being more racial sensitive, these boundaries are reasonable compact and try to respect city boundaries as much as possible.

While this map would give minority voters a larger say in the representation on the commission, there are still a few hiccups.  The main issue lies with Hispanics.  Hispanic’s have a much lower registration rate than white or black voters in Broward.  It has always been the case that minority voter registration is lower.  However, Hispanic registration is especially low in Broward.  While part of this can be attributed to immigration (people counted by the census but are not citizens) it does not explain registration drop-offs in major suburban sectors where non-citizen populations are very low.  In addition, the 16% of Broward residents that are non-citizens are not all Hispanic, many are Caribbean black as well; yet Hispanic registration drop-off is much higher than the drop-off among black residents.

Below is the census tracts of Broward by race.

Hispanic pockets are concentrated in the south and in the mid-western region (which is the city of Weston).  Now look at the racial makeup by voter registration.
Look how high the dropoff for Hispanic registration it; falling to 16%.  Especially focus on the area of Weston.  That suburb is affluent and well educated.  It is 45% white and 45% Hispanic.  However, registration wise, it is 53% white and 38% Hispanic.  This drop-off is happening in a well-educated, well-to-do area with a low non-citizen population.  It means this issue of Hispanic drop-off in registration goes beyond socioeconomic ties.  It is an issue that also effects the true power of these proposed county commission lines.

Under my lines, Hispanics are a plurality in two districts.  However, registration wise, they are the plurality in zero.  The drop-off in registration is steep enough that the Hispanics lose influence in both districts.  They are still well positioned in district 1 because they started off so strong, but lose a great deal of ground in district 3.  Look at the side by side of the districts by census data and then by registration to see the full effect (click it for zoom in).

The issue of Hispanic registration drop-off has been a long-standing issue that will take time to resolve.  In the shorter term, however, are the current commission lines in Broward.  Even with the registration drop-off, Hispanics would be able to unite and influence the election of my district 1.  However, under the current lines they are effectively shut out; divided over several districts and at a disadvantage in the one they are tied with blacks in.  In addition, black voters are shortchanged with two districts instead of three.  The current lines create 7/9 white districts in a county that is only 43% white.  Its impossible to say for sure that race was a factor (I do not believe that the Democratic commissioners are racist).  However, I do believe this was about preserving power of the incumbents.  These boundaries make no logical sense racially or city-wise.  Communities of interest are broken up and weakened.  Broward voted overwhelmingly for the Fair Districts amendments in 2010.  It is time their own internal boundaries met the standards that those amendments stood for.

Originally posted to bluedemocrat on Sun Jan 26, 2014 at 10:58 PM PST.

Also republished by DKos Florida and Community Spotlight.

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