Gerrymandering makes for interesting mail! Here are some excerpts from activists, a journalist, political scientist, and a few redistricters. ...
Moneyball politics: Florida
I’m in Florida at an event with Katie Fahey, founder of Voters Not Politicians! Naturally we got to talking about redistricting reform.
Here at PEC, we’ve always been looking for ways to maximize the effectiveness of people’s donations and time. That means finding interventions that move probabilities the most, while costing the least. Usually, these are races and questions that are on a knife edge.
This year is a little different because the stakes are higher: Redistricting happens in 2021, which sets the maps for the next ten years.
Therefore whoever controls state legislatures is unusually important. Up to 1/3 of the seats in a chamber are under the control of whoever holds the redistricting pen. This means that the difference between single-party control and divided government can reverberate for a decade.
At the congressional level, funding even one congressional race can cost millions of dollars. And based on a recent estimate of a congressional seat changes following the 2020 census, Florida is estimated to gain two congressional seats (for a total of 29). Let’s say that even five of Florida’s congressional seats could be competitive or safely partisan, depending on who controls the process. Funding that many races for a decade would cost $25 million or more – and if there’s a gerrymander, your money would be wasted.
Although the state Supreme Court intervened to undo gerrymanders in 2013, a repeat of that may not occur because the court has taken a strong rightward turn.
Florida’s congressional district lines are drawn by the legislature and Governor, and legislative lines by the legislature alone. The Florida House, Senate, and Governor are Republican. Control of either chamber of the Florida General Assembly is a valuable prize. The Florida House of Representatives has 73 Republicans and 47 Democrats. Between the two, the state House of Representatives is more winnable: to change partisan control, 14 out of 120 seats would have to go from Republican to Democratic control. The resulting divided government would bring bipartisan rule to the Sunshine State.
The closest 14 Republican House seats we decided by an average margin of 2,200 votes. One answer would be to focus on these races. State legislative races usually cost considerably less than congressional races. I imagine competitive campaigns could be run in all of them for a few million dollars.
Normally I’d say that 14 seats is a lot to shift. But there’s a new population of potential voters, thanks to ex-felon reenfranchisement. Last year, Amendment 4 in Florida made 1.4 million people who had served their time eligible to vote again. However, the state legislature has passed a law stipulating that they have to pay all their outstanding fines. Statewide, that’s been estimated to be over $200 million.
But what if one targeted those 14 close districts? That would be much less expensive – an average of a few hundred dollars per person. There are about 12,000 such eligible people per district. Voting rights could be fully restored in all 14 districts for under $25 million.
Those districts are equally valuable for either party. In principle, both major parties should make every effort to win them. Any money and effort spent there would be highly effective.
In a later post, I show you where those districts are. That post also identifies ways you can give (as always, links are given for Democrats, Republicans, and independents where possible.) For Democrats, suggestions are linked in the thermometer at left.