The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

A judge says Florida’s gerrymandering went too far. Here’s what he means.

Placeholder while article actions load

A circuit court judge ruled on Thursday that the Florida legislature's redrawn congressional districts were illegal, violating a state law preventing certain types of gerrymandering. A look at maps from before and after the redraw pretty clearly show what the Legislature hoped to accomplish.

Before the 2010 Census, Florida had 25 congressional districts. After, that number jumped to 27, thanks to an increase in the state's population. When state lawmakers set out define how those districts would be outlined, they relied on the advice of operatives from the Republican party, who provided input with the apparent goal of maximizing the party's advantage in the House. In 2008, 11 of the 25 districts were held by Democrats. In 2012, 10 of the 27 were.

Comparing Census data on racial composition from before and after the lines were redrawn, you can see the result: Hispanic votes were increasingly concentrated in districts held by Democrats.

Or, to make that point more clearly, here are maps comparing the before-and-after of the redistricting.

Hispanic population

The large Hispanic population in southern Florida was split into two districts, and a new district was created in the central part of the state that had a disproportionately large percentage of Hispanic residents.

As Wonkblog's Christopher Ingraham points out, the judge's ruling focuses on two districts: the new 5th and 10th.

Want to see the 5th? Try and spot it on this map, which shows the density of the white vote, by district.

White population

It's the snaky one that runs down the upper center of the state. Notice how it changes, becoming narrower but maintaining the same density of minority votes. Ingraham notes that one change, moving part of Seminole County into the district, "had the net effect of increasing the minority population in District 5, and decreasing it in the neighboring District 7, making that district more friendly to Republicans."

Florida passed a law in 2010 to try and keep this sort of thing from happening. It didn't work -- or, rather, it took a judge to step in and determine that it had been violated. And, given that the ruling will be appealed, what the judge calls a violation of the law won't be corrected until at least the 2016 elections.