Republican-drawn congressional districts in Florida and Virginia have been struck down in court, with new districts ordered for the 2016 election cycle. Florida’s partisan gerrymander violated the state’s recently-enacted Fair Districts constitutional amendment, leading to a redraw of nearly the entire map. Virginia’s 3rd District, meanwhile, illegally packed black voters into a single district spanning from Richmond to Norfolk, which violated the Voting Rights Act. It has now been replaced with two districts, where black voters will be able to elect their candidate of choice. Democrats should gain a handful of seats between the two states, although Republicans are currently appealing the Virginia ruling to the United States Supreme Court.
Below, we present interactive maps for Florida and Virginia‘s new congressional lines, showing the current partisan representation, presidential election results, and racial demographics by district for both states. (You can see the underlying data for Florida and Virginia.)
The incumbent party maps show which party holds each seat and which presidential ticket last won it. Dark red districts are held by a Republican and voted for Romney, while Democrats hold the dark blue districts that Obama won. Light red seats went for Obama but are currently held by a Republican, while light blue seats are Democratic but voted for Romney.
We’ve also mapped out the 2012 presidential election results by district, as shown in the map at the top of this post. Florida will go from having just 11 seats carried by Obama to 13 out of its total 27. In Virginia, Obama will have still won four of 11 districts, but all four are now strongly Democratic, whereas before one of them was marginal. Despite court intervention, both maps still retain elements of Republican gerrymandering, and both states remain among the six nationally where Romney won a majority of districts despite Obama winning the state. However, these maps are undoubtedly an improvement for the Democratic Party and fair elections in general.
Finally, we have 2010 Census racial demographics by district. Florida’s new map will likely see African-American representation increase by one member in the Orlando area, while three other districts remain likely to keep a black representative and three others favor Latinos. Black representation should double from one to two members in southeastern Virginia, thanks to the invaluable Voting Rights Act.
In Florida, Republicans currently hold 17 congressional districts to Democrats’ 10. Under this new map, five of those Republican-held districts voted for Obama in 2012, while Democrats maintain their two that Romney won. Three Obama-seat Republicans, Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in the 27th, Carlos Curbelo in the 26th, and John Mica in the 7th, are likely running for reelection, while 13th District Rep. David Jolly is running for Senate and 10th District Rep. Dan Webster has yet to announce his plans after his district became dramatically less hospitable to a Republican. Of the 10 Republicans in Romney seats, eight are likely running for another term, while 6th District Rep. Ron DeSantis is running for Senate and Rep. Rich Nugent is retiring in the 11th.
Among the Democrats in Romney seats, 18th District Rep. Patrick Murphy is running for Senate while first-term 2nd District Rep. Gwen Graham has yet to announce her plans. Eight of the Obama-district Democrats are running for reelection while 9th District Rep. Alan Grayson is running for Senate, and 5th District Rep. Corrine Brown has yet to announce her 2016 plans after her district changed considerably, much like Graham’s.
As this map shows, Democrats stand to gain considerably in the 2016 elections. Their chief target is the 10th District in Orlando, which goes from a modest Romney win to an Obama rout of more than 20 points. Consequently, Republican Rep. Dan Webster might seek reelection in a neighboring, more Republican district or retire altogether. The adjacent 7th District also flips from Romney to Obama, but the president’s razor-thin margin combined with entrenched Republican Rep. John Mica’s incumbency should keep this seat in the Republican column. However, if the 72-year-old Mica were to retire, this seat would instantly become competitive.
In the 13th District, which contains St. Petersburg, Obama’s margin swells from one point to nearly 11 percent. That shift prompted Republican Rep. David Jolly to vacate for a Senate bid and former Gov. Charlie Crist to run for the Democratic nomination. With Crist’s personal popularity here and the presidential baseline, Democrats are favored to flip this seat. In Miami-Dade County, one more enticing Democratic target is the 26th District, where Obama’s margin increases from six points to 11.5 percent. Unlike the 13th however, Republicans tend to outperform the presidential baseline in this region, in part thanks to Cuban-American voters, but first-term Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo is nonetheless very vulnerable.
On the other hand, Democratic Rep. Gwen Graham’s chances of retaining the Panhandle’s 2nd District are now very slim after Romney’s margin there ballooned from six points to over 30 percent. It is an open secret that Graham is considering a 2018 gubernatorial bid, and it’s quite possible she’ll simply forgo re-election to focus on that future statewide race. The 18th District barely changed at all in redistricting, and has seen a slew of candidates running for both parties now that Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy is running for Senate. However, Romney won this seat by nearly 4 percent and Democrats have a fight on their hands to retain it. None of the other Democratic seats should be vulnerable in 2016.
The Florida Supreme Court struck down the old 5th District, which snaked from Jacksonville south to Orlando, as an illegal gerrymander and ordered that it be redrawn east-to-west to rope together Jacksonville and Tallahassee instead. The new 5th is still 45 percent black while the new 10th in Orlando has a significant black minority that should actually form a majority in the Democratic primary. These changes eliminate a district that was designed to pack black voters into a single seat and replaces it with two districts that are highly likely to elect black voters’ candidate of choice, meaning black representation will increase by one member.
In South Florida, the 20th District still combines West Palm Beach with Ft. Lauderdale and now it extends further south as well. This district is debatably a racial gerrymander that is not required by the Voting Rights Act, as we have previously argued. However, Florida’s own Fair Districts Amendment has stronger language on racial-voting strength retrogression than the Voting Rights Act, and the court thus ordered no changes to this district to prevent diluting its minority population with white voters.
Latino voting strength doesn’t change nearly as much under this new map as it did for black voters. The three South Florida VRA-mandated districts remain majority Latino and heavily Cuban-American. Even if Democrats flip the 26th District, it will likely be with a Latino candidate as Annette Taddeo is the favorite for the party’s nomination.
In Central Florida, the 9th presents an opportunity for Latinos to gain another representative now that Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson is vacating the seat to run for Senate. Democratic State Sen. Darren Soto is a strong contender for the nomination and with this district’s Latino population being predominantly Puerto Rican instead of Cuban-American, it leans more Democratic down-ballot than the Miami-Dade County districts.
Thanks to fairer districts and one open seat, black and Latino representation should both increase by one member each in Florida.
Now we move on to Virginia.
Republicans deviously gerrymandered the Old Dominion to give themselves an eight-to-three advantage among the state's congressional delegation. Just as before, all three Democrats hold Obama districts while only one Republican does, but now that Republican is 4th District Rep. Randy Forbes instead of 2nd District Rep. Scott Rigell, who is retiring (as is 5th District Rep. Robert Hurt). With his district radically reconfigured, Forbes has yet to announce his plans but he hasn’t ruled out bids in the 2nd or 7th Districts (where he’d face a primary with fellow GOP Rep. Dave Brat), though he hasn’t taken any steps toward either and may wind up retiring.
Democrats will almost certainly now gain the 4th District as it flips from a narrow Romney win to an Obama landslide of just over 20 points. In exchange, the 2nd District swings from a modest Obama win to a narrow Romney victory, but that is a small price to pay for picking up the 4th.
First-term Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock’s 10th District remains competitive for the parties since Romney prevailed there by just 1.6 percent, while Democrats could have a very slight chance of winning the open 5th, but Romney’s 7.6 point margin there would take a lot to overcome. However, neither seat changed at all in redistricting, as the court limited changes to just the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 7th.
The biggest victors in this court case are black voters. Under the old map, the 3rd District snaked from Richmond to Norfolk to pack them into a single district to ensure that white conservatives would dominate every surrounding district. Now the 3rd is confined to the Hampton Roads region while the 4th takes in much of Richmond. Both districts are more than 40 percent African-American and will enable black voters to consistently elect their candidate of choice, as the Voting Rights Act demands.
While increasing the number of minority representatives in both Florida and Virginia is undoubtedly a victory for racial fairness, there is still a lot of progress yet to be made when nearly every single Southern state state could have drawn additional congressional districts that would elect a minority. Given how overrepresented whites are in Congress, hopefully future redistricting will correct this injustice, as the Florida and Virginia remaps are poised to do.