When Florida’s state House and Senate failed on Friday to agree on a new congressional map, it injected even more uncertainty into an already unpredictable redistricting process. Now, a state court gets to draw the lines, and state Republicans have lost even more control over the process.
— The court may well just take one of the proposed maps that died in the legislature when the special session ended in disagreement—that’s happened with past court-drawn maps in other states. But it could also take a different course, and no one has more to worry about than Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-26). Curbelo got a gift in both chambers’ proposed maps. To make up for a court-mandated influx of Democratic voters in Homestead, which had previously been carved out of the 26th District, Republican legislators removed voters from Perrine, a predominantly African-American community where Charlie Crist (D) won about 70 percent of the gubernatorial vote last year.
— Democratic redistricting consultant Matthew Isbell estimates that removing Perrine reduced Democrats’ share of the vote in Curbelo’s district by 1.3 percentage points. That’s a big number considering Curbelo won his first term by a narrow three-point margin in a GOP wave year.
— Democrats had been upset with the proposed changes to Curbelo’s district, which would have gone from a 53% Obama district to one the president barely carried in 2012. But there was nothing legislative Democrats could do about it. Now, they can argue before a court that such changes are unnecessary to comply with the order to include Homestead. The court could still use one of the proposed maps that helps Curbelo, or it could not. By putting the mapping process in the court’s hands, Republicans gave up the guarantee that Curbelo would benefit.
Uncertainty isn’t a negative for everyone. In particular, Reps. Dan Webster (R-10) and Gwen Graham (D-02) have nothing left to lose after the legislature was set to draw them into unwinnable districts. But Curbelo, who represents Florida Republicans’ only current battleground House seat, might have a lot to lose in court.— Jack Fitzpatrick