Issue #33: An Alternative Florida 5th District for the Court
What to draw if the court strikes it down
Florida’s redistricting cycle is quickly becoming one of the craziest in the country. Thanks to the late entry of the Governor into the debate, redistricting plans for Congress are on hold. On Tuesday, Ron DeSantis formally asked the Florida Supreme Court to decide if the Florida 5th district is legal. This is the black-access seat that goes from Jacksonville to Tallahassee and is represented by Al Lawson.
As I covered in this substack, which links to 3,500 worlds of a bigger article, the history and logic behind the 5th district is well laid out. Originally the 5th was not considered a major debating point. All house and senate drafts included a 5th that retained its east-west layout. Below is the Congressional plan the State Senate already passed.
DeSantis followed by releasing a plan of his own. His plan destroyed the 5th district. Through his changes to north Florida and Orlando, DeSantis’ map only kept two of the map’s four African-American districts.
My critiques of this plan are well known.
So what does the DeSantis request mean? The Governor wants an advisory opinion on if the 5th is protected. He is counting on the answer being “no”; or at least shifting conservative activists anger toward the court. The possibilities from the court are fairly broad; but the court is much more conservative than ever before.
First, however, the court must decide if it will offer an opinion at all. The court has now set a Monday deadline for all parties to offer supporting evidence on the subject.
The court could punt the issue and decline to issue an opinion. If they do decide to wade in now, there are multiple things that could happen.
Court affirms an east-west 5th district
Court strikes east-west 5th, but mandates retaining a minority seat
Court strikes 5th, doesn’t mandate replacement
Court guts Fair Districts, weakens minority mandates
The options range from narrow to broad. I cannot get anyone to affirm with confidence how they think this will shake out.
Replacing the 5th
There is alot of uncertainty right now in Florida. However, one court outcome is a little easier to game out. If the court issues a narrow ruling that strikes the east-west 5th, but mandates a minority district, what can be done? The answer is actually pretty simple. A Duval-only district. In fact, such a change would be fairly easy. Below is the Senate-passed plan, with districts 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 changed to meet a new court ruling. Everything else is the same.
This 5th district would be steadily, but not safe, for Democrats. It would be around 35% BVAP, and critically, would be over 60% black in a democratic primary.
So we’d have a seat that majority-black in a dem primary and likely Dem. This could easily be argued as a bare-minimum. My belief still holds with the east-west because of the issues I raised with giving rural black voters a voice. However, if a narrow court ruling came down, this is likely the best that can be achieved from a minority representation standpoint.
We shall see what happens.