Florida Redistricting: Tallying the Hassle in Tallahassee
May 17, 2022 · 10:30 AM EDT
Control of the House majority could very well hinge on somewhere like Florida, given its status as one of the most populated and electorally consequential states. And it was one of the last states to finalize a new congressional map this redistricting cycle. But now that we know what its new district lines will look like, the Sunshine State gets to add another near-superlative distinction: one of the most extreme gerrymanders in the country.
Florida has gained at least one congressional seat in every redistricting cycle since 1930, and the most recent round of census reapportionment was no different. To account for population increases, the state will add another representative to its congressional delegation, bringing the total to 28.
Both chambers of the Republican-controlled Legislature passed separate plans dividing the state. The state House’s map was slightly more biased toward the GOP than the proposal from the state Senate. But for Democrats, either would have been preferable to the map offered by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Rather than signing one of the Legislature’s proposals, DeSantis vetoed both and proposed his own. The governor specifically took issue with the placement of the 5th District, which is currently a heavily Black seat in North Florida, believing it to be designed unfairly based on race. In response, the DeSantis map effectively eliminates the seat, while also dividing Black voters in the Orlando area between the 10th and 11th districts.
The result is a map that is deeply biased in favor of Republicans.
In the 2020 presidential election, former President Donald Trump would have carried 20 of the state’s new congressional districts, while President Joe Biden would have won the remaining eight — despite Trump only winning statewide by approximately 3 points. By contrast, under the current map, Trump won 16 districts to Biden’s twelve.
None of the seats look to be very competitive this November, either: all 28 districts begin with an initial rating from Inside Elections of Likely or Solid for either party.
This isn’t the first instance of perceived trickery during Florida’s redistricting process. Florida voters approved a Fair Districts ballot amendment in 2010, and the original map for that decade was thrown out before the 2016 election, with the redrawn lines somewhat leveling the field for Democrats.
Like last time, there’s a chance this map gets struck down in the courts — not least because the DeSantis plan shares similarities with last decade’s tossed map.
Indeed, on May 11, a Leon County Circuit Court judge (who was appointed by DeSantis in 2020) ruled the northern portions of the new map unconstitutional. The governor has already vowed to appeal the decision, almost surely setting the stage for a legal battle in front of the state Supreme Court; notably, many of the court’s justices who backed the 2015 redistricting have since been replaced by GOP governors.
Republicans currently have a 16R-11D advantage in the Florida congressional delegation. Assuming this map stands, the most likely outcome is that Republicans extend their lead with a net gain of four seats, bringing the breakdown to 20R-8D. They would probably achieve this by flipping the 5th, 7th, and 13th districts, while also picking up the state’s newly created seat.
For Democrats, even a best-case scenario would be 17R-11D. The new Republican-favored 15th, 26th, 27th, and 28th districts have all voted for a Democratic candidate in at least one statewide election between 2016 and 2020. But those latter few districts, heavily Hispanic seats in South Florida, might have already trended away from Democrats.
The 1st spans the western panhandle, covering Pensacola and Fort Walton Beach. In order to meet population targets, the district no longer reaches into Holmes County, and it also sheds some of Walton County. But otherwise the 1st stays strongly Republican: overall, it preferred GOP candidates by an average of 34.7 points, according to a composite of all statewide and federal races in Florida between 2016 and 2020 calculated by Inside Elections. Trump would have carried the district by 32 points in 2020, 65-33 percent.
Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, a self-branded firebrand who closely aligns himself with Trump, has frequently attracted national attention — and controversy — for voting to overturn the results of the 2020 election as well as stoking intraparty squabbles. In 2021, it came to light that the congressman was under investigation for paying an underage girl for sex.
A number of candidates have filed to run against Gaetz. On the Democratic side is Rebekah Jones, a former data analyst for the state Department of Health. Jones was ousted from her position in 2020 because, in her description of the events, she refused DeSantis’s request to publish fudged Covid-19 statistics — she was later granted official whistleblower status. Republicans in the race include Greg Merk and John Mills, both of whom also ran in the 2020 primary (each earning approximately 10 percent). Given the partisanship of the 1st District, so long as Gaetz survives the primary — and legal jeopardy — the general election should be a formality. Initial rating: Solid Republican.
Another panhandle district, the 2nd contains Panama City and Tallahassee. The district now follows Florida's northern border from Walton County to Madison County, resembling its lines before 2015, with the primary differences being additional area in Holmes and Walton counties to the west and in Madison and Lafayette counties to the east. Republican Rep. Neal Dunn is seeking a fourth term. Approximately 64 percent of the new 2nd comes Dunn’s current district, according to Daily Kos Elections. In the composite of elections, the 2nd preferred Republicans by an average of 10.9 points, and Trump would have won by 11 points in 2020, 55-44 percent. Practically any Democrat would struggle to break ahead here. If Democrats are unable to reverse the dismantling of the majority-Black 5th District, then Rep. Al Lawson says he’ll run here. Solid Republican.
The 3rd is home to Gainesville and Ocala. The district stays anchored in Alachua, Bradford, and Union counties, but it now shifts westward by adding eight rural counties and dropping eastern Clay and Putnam counties; its reach into Marion County has also been reconfigured. The new 3rd retains approximately 56 percent of the old district, and it had an average partisanship of R+15.3 in the composite of previous elections. Freshman Republican Rep. Kat Cammack has the endorsement of Trump, who would have carried the district by 16 points in 2020, 57-41 percent. Solid Republican.
Although it remains Florida’s northeasternmost district, the 4th’s identity is now a bit different. The district keeps Nassau County, but trades Clay County for portions of St. John’s County — and substantially alters its reach around Jacksonville in Duval County. As a result, most GOP votes in the new 4th will likely come from Clay County, according to Matthew Isbell, a Democratic Florida political analyst.
With Republican Rep. John Rutherford jumping over to the redrawn 5th District, the new 4th is an open seat. Businessman and Navy veteran Erick Aguilar, who finished with 20 percent in the 2020 GOP primary, reported over $800,000 on hand on March 31, while state Rep. Jason Fischer is also running. Former state Sen. Tony Hill is running on the Democratic side. The 4th preferred Republicans by an average of 9.7 points in the composite of 2016-2020 elections, and Trump would have carried the district by 6 points in 2020 and 11 points in 2016. Although this is one of the less Republican-leaning seats in the state, the GOP has a clear edge here in November. Solid Republican.
Tucked southwest of Jacksonville across Duval and St. John’s counties, the 5th is the more Republican-leaning district surrounding the city — a stark departure from its previous configuration. Under the current map, the 5th District stretched across the top of the state from Tallahassee to Jacksonville and was designed with the area’s Black population in mind. Now, 86 percent of the new 5th comes from the old 4th.
The elimination of the current 5th District pushes out Democratic Rep. Al Lawson. If he runs at all, Lawson has indicated he would switch to the new 2nd District, rather than try his luck in a district where the average partisanship in the composite of statewide races was R+22.1 and Trump would have won by 15 points in 2020, 57-42 percent. Republican Rep. John Rutherford, a member of the House Ethics Committee who notably became a subject of committee inquiry earlier this year, is in the best position to win. Solid Republican.
The 6th, containing Palm Coast and Daytona Beach, pivots slightly inland. The district loses the southern half of Volusia County along the coast, but gains all of Putnam County and parts of Marion County, while also extending deeper into Lake County. Republican Rep. Michael Waltz should have little problem: the 6th voted for Republicans by an average of 23 points between 2016 and 2020, and the district would have preferred Trump by 23 points in 2020, 61-38 percent. Solid Republican.
The 7th, positioned northeast of Orlando, is another district where the new map sets Democrats back. It still contains Seminole County, including Oviedo and Winter Springs, but in exchange for the southern half of Volusia County, the 7th drops Orange County. This greatly boosts Republicans: the current 7th would have voted for Biden by 10 points in 2020, whereas the new lines are Trump+5. The district’s average partisanship was R+6.6 in the 2016-2020 composite.
Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy is not seeking re-election after three terms. And there’s a long list of Republicans vying to replace her, including pastor/veteran Brady Duke, businessman/veteran Cory Mills, state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, businessman Scott Sturgill, former congressional staffer Rusty Roberts, and former DeBary City Commissioner Erika Benfield. Seminole County has trended somewhat toward Democrats, flipping from Trump+2 in 2016 to Biden+3 in 2020. But Trump won the overall district, 52-47 percent, and with no serious Democrats currently in contention the seat is still favored to flip for the GOP. Likely Republican.
The 8th, containing Melbourne and Cape Canaveral, stays practically the same. The district sheds some precincts in Orange County, but is still based in coastal Brevard and Indian River counties. Republican Rep. Bill Posey should be fine in this district that backed Trump by 17 points in 2020 and voted for Republicans by an average of 19.3 points in the composite of 2016-2020 elections. Solid Republican.
The 9th is positioned south of Orlando, primarily in Osceola County (including Kissimmee). Only a sliver of the district now reaches into Polk County, and the lines now sprawl much more throughout southern Orange County. These changes make the 9th approximately 10 points more favorable for Democrats, which is good news for Democratic Rep. Darren Soto. The heavily Hispanic district had an average partisanship of D+19.2 in the 2016-2020 composite, and Biden would have won by 17 points in 2020. Solid Democratic.
The 10th is still home to Orlando, and it is still confined to Orange County, but other contours of the seat have changed slightly. The old configuration took a western slice of Orange County, while the new version is located in the north-central part of the county. As a result, the lines pick up communities such as Winter Park while losing Winter Garden, Ocoee, and Apopka — controversially splitting Orlando’s Black population in the process.
Democratic Rep. Val Demings is giving up her seat to run for Senate. A number of Democrats have entered the field, with activist Maxwell Frost and state Sen. Randolph Bracy reporting the most cash on hand on March 31; pastor Terence Gray and lawyer Natalie Jackson are also running. The winner essentially gets a ticket to Congress: the 10th voted for Democratic candidates by an average of 29.2 points in the composite of 2016-2020 statewide races, and Biden would have carried the district by 31 points in 2020. Solid Democratic.
The 11th is located primarily to the northwest of Orlando, and redistricting solidifies that identity. Although it maintains the strongly Republican Sumter County — home to most of The Villages retirement community — the district no longer stretches to the coastal Citrus and Hernando counties, instead adding portions of Orange and Polk counties inland while dropping Marion County. The district also contains the bulk of the Walt Disney World Resort, although a few amenities, such as the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex (the site of the 2020 NBA bubble), are placed just south in the neighboring 9th District.
The 11th had an average partisanship of R+15.3 in the 2016-2020 composite, and Trump would have won by 11 points in 2020, 55-44 percent. Alt-right internet personality Laura Loomer, who finished with 39 percent against Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel in the 21st District in 2020, is running against Republican Rep. Daniel Webster in the GOP primary, but Webster is no stranger to winning elections in post-redistricting cycles. Solid Republican.
A three-county strip along the Gulf Coast, the 12th has moved slightly north. The district now adds Citrus and Hernando counties while losing its southward reach into Pinellas County, and it also sheds portions of Pasco County. In total, approximately 55 percent of the new 12th comes from the current district. Although Republican Rep. Gus Bilirakis is losing a lot of familiar land, these changes make the district approximately 12 points more favorable for Republicans. Trump would have carried the 12th by 29 points in 2020, and it voted for Republican candidates by an average of 26.1 points according to the 2016-2020 composite. Solid Republican.
The 13th also received changes benefitting Republicans. The St. Petersburg- and Clearwater-based district has shifted its position within Pinellas County, more closely resembling its pre-2016 configuration. Losing Democratic-leaning precincts in the eastern part of St. Petersburg, it gains Republican-leaning precincts leading up to the county’s northern border. The redrawn district, which would have voted for Trump by 7 points in 2020 (53-46 percent), had an average partisanship of R+6.3 in the composite of 2016-2020 elections — meaning it is now approximately 11 points more favorable for Republicans.
Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist is giving up his seat to run for governor, after having previously served in the position (as a Republican) from 2007 to 2011. The Democratic field to replace him narrowed after state Rep. Michele Rayner dropped out, leaving 2016 13th District candidate/former Obama-era Defense Department official Eric Lynn as the most prominent contender. Businesswoman and Air Force veteran Anna Paulina Luna, who won the GOP primary in 2020 and finished with 47 percent behind Crist, is currently the best-funded Republican. Other Republicans running include attorneys Amanda Makki and Kevin Hayslett, as well as businesswoman and nonprofit founder Audrey Hensen. Especially if the national environment stays in the GOP’s favor, this is one of their top prospective flips in November. Likely Republican.
The 14th packs Democratic voters in the Tampa Bay area. Still geographically anchored around Tampa, the district now extends into Pinellas County to take in eastern portions of St. Petersburg, in exchange for reach into North Tampa. Businessman/veteran James Judge is running on the Republican side, but Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor is in no real danger in this district that preferred Democrats by an average of 18.1 points in the 2016-2020 composite and would have voted for Biden by 18 points in 2020. Solid Democratic.
Located northeast of Tampa, the 15th shifts slightly westward. The district now spreads across portions of Pasco, Polk, and Hillsborough counties, reaching closer to North Tampa and no longer taking in Lake County.
Republican Rep. Scott Franklin is running in the 18th District, so the new 15th is an open seat. Republicans in the field include nonprofit executive/veteran Jay Collins (who was originally running in the 14th District), state Sen. Kelli Stargel, state Rep. Jackie Toledo, Navy veteran Demetrius Grimes, self-funding government contractor Jerry Torres, and former Rep. Dennis Ross; Navy veteran Kevin McGovern shifted to this race after initially announcing a run in the 7th District. Comedian Eddie Geller was the best-funded Democrat on March 31.
The 15th is one of Florida’s more competitive seats under the new map. Both DeSantis and GOP Sen. Rick Scott would have carried the district by less than 1 point in 2018, suggesting this could be a potential pickup for Democrats later in the decade. But for 2022, this is still Republican-leaning territory: Trump would have carried the district by 3 points in 2020, 51-48 percent, and it had an average partisanship of R+3.4 in the 2016-2020 composite. Likely Republican.
South of Tampa Bay, the 16th stays geographically rooted in Manatee County (including Bradenton) but no longer reaches into Sarasota County, while its coverage in Hillsborough County has also been extended slightly northward. The district voted for Republicans by an average of 12 points in the composite of 2016-2020 statewide elections, and Trump would have carried the district by 9 points. Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan is staying put, which should earn him his ninth term. Solid Republican.
Another district along the Gulf Coast, the 17th loses area but stays GOP-friendly. The new lines encompass all of Sarasota County, while also keeping Charlotte County and extending deeper into Lee County; the 17th also loses Hardee, DeSoto, Highlands, Glades, and Okeechobee counties to make way for the reconfigured 18th District. Republican Rep. Greg Steube should cruise in this district that preferred Republican candidates by an average of 16.5 points in the 2016-2020 composite and voted Trump+16 in 2020. Solid Republican.
The 18th spans the Florida Heartland, amalgamating portions of four current districts across the region. The new boundaries encompass Hardee, DeSoto, Highlands, Glades, Hendry, and Okeechobee counties as well as a slice of Collier County to the south, with Polk County (including Winter Haven, Haines City, and Davenport) serving as an anchor.
Republican Rep. Scott Franklin of Lakeland is running here: only 17 percent of his current 15th District is located in the new 18th, but the district still gets many of its votes from Polk County. And while Franklin will have to introduce himself to new voters, those voters will at least be overwhelmingly Republican. The 18th had an average partisanship of R+21.3 in the 2016-2020 composite, and Trump would have carried the district by 21 points in 2020. Solid Republican.
A Gulf Coast district covering Naples and Fort Myers, the 19th saw only slight adjustments at the edges (the most noticeable being around Lehigh Acres in Lee County). The 19th backed Republicans by an average of 25.9 points according to the 2016-2020 composite of elections, while Trump would have won by 21 points in 2020. Freshman Republican Rep. Byron Donalds, who won a crowded primary by 777 votes in 2020, shouldn’t need much luck to secure a second term. Solid Republican.
The 20th contains western portions of Broward and Palm Beach counties in the Everglades, then reaches east toward West Palm Beach, Pompano Beach, and Fort Lauderdale to connect the area’s Black communities. Changes were minimal, and the district keeps its characteristic shape. Democratic Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick won a special election to this seat in 2022 following the death of longtime Rep. Alcee Hastings. Former Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness, who finished just five votes behind Cherfilus-McCormick in the special’s Democratic primary, is running again but the personally wealthy Cherfilus-McCormick had eight times as much money in the bank on March 31. The district had an average partisanship of D+50.1 in the 2016-2020 composite and would have voted for Biden by 45 points in 2020. Solid Democratic.
Following along the Treasure Coast, the 21st is functionally the same as the current 18th District, just with a new number. The seat serves Martin and St. Lucie counties, while also reaching into Palm Beach County (including Palm Beach Gardens). Republican Rep. Brian Mast is endorsed by Trump, who would have carried the district by over 8 points in 2020. Overall, the district voted for Republicans by an average of 7.6 points between 2016 and 2020. Solid Republican.
The 22nd is a successor to the current 21st District, covering southern portions of Palm Beach County. The lines no longer stretch to the border with Broward County, but they still create a strongly Democratic seat. The 22nd had an average partisanship of D+20.9 in the 2016-2020 composite, and Biden would have carried the district by 18 points in 2020. Businessman Jeff Buongiorno, attorney/veteran Rod Dorilas, and writer Martin Marks were the best-funded Republicans on March 31, but Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel starts with an obvious advantage. Solid Democratic.
The 23rd, which connects Boca Raton to eastern Fort Lauderdale, is a renumbered version of the current 22nd District. Other than trading a few precincts to meet population targets, there weren’t many alterations. The district stays strongly Democratic, as it voted for Biden by 14 points in 2020 and preferred Democrats by an average of 16 points in the composite of 2016-2020 elections. Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch is resigning to become CEO of the American Jewish Committee. The winner of his party’s primary is almost assuredly the district’s next representative; Broward County Commissioner/former state Rep. Jared Moskowitz has been the strongest fundraiser so far. Solid Democratic.
The 24th stays settled in North Miami and Miami Gardens. The heavily Black district picks up Miami Beach, trading a number of other precincts around Hollywood in the process. The district’s average partisanship according to the 2016-2020 composite was D+58.3, and Biden would have carried the district by 47 points in 2020. Republican Lavern Spicer, who finished with 20 percent in the 2020 general election, is running again, but Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson, who finished with 76 percent in the same race, should win a seventh term comfortably. Solid Democratic.
The 25th is the successor to the current 23rd District, covering southern Broward County (including Davie and Hollywood). The most major difference is that its lines no longer stretch into Miami-Dade County. Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, known for her contentious tenure as chair of the Democratic National Committee in 2016 and her unsuccessful bid to head the Appropriations Committee in 2020, doesn’t have much to worry about in November. The 25th would have voted for Biden by 20 points in 2020, and it backed Democratic candidates by an average of 26.7 points in the composite of previous elections. Solid Democratic.
The 26th is the old 25th District renumbered. The district includes most of Collier County and northwestern Miami-Dade County (including a substantial Cuban population around Hialeah) but loses Hendry County. It had an average partisanship of R+6.1 in the 2016-2020 composite, but Trump would have carried it by approximately 15 points in 2020. That’s because the new district would have swung significantly in Republicans’ favor after 2016, when Hillary Clinton would have carried it by 8 points. Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart seems set for another term. Solid Republican.
Located in southern Miami, the 27th is home to communities such as Coral Gables. The district loses Miami Beach in exchange for area inland, making the new configuration a few points more favorable for Republicans. Indeed, although the 27th voted D+6 on average in the 2016-2020 composite, that number doesn’t fully reflect the district’s partisan stripes. Trump carried the new 27th by less than a point in 2020, an 18-point improvement from his performance four years earlier. In fact, even as Hillary Clinton carried the district by double digits in 2016, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio would have won by 3 points.
Freshman Republican Rep. Maria Salazar defeated Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala in 2020 to win the seat, avenging her 6-point loss to Shalala in 2018. Democratic Miami Commissioner Ken Russell recently entered the field, having switched his sights from the Senate. Miami-Dade County Commissioner Eileen Higgins just dropped out, and rumors are swirling that state Sen. Annette Taddeo will drop out of the race for governor, where she’s failed to gain traction, and enter this contest instead — her campaign says she’s staying put. The district’s electoral trends, along with what is likely to be a GOP-favored national environment, gives Salazar an edge. Likely Republican.
The 28th, a renumbering of the current 26th District, is Florida’s southernmost seat. In some ways, the story here is similar to the 27th: this is another predominantly Hispanic district that swung toward Republicans between 2016 and 2020. The district had an average partisanship of D+4.9 in the 2016-2020 composite but backed Trump by 6 points in 2020. If the Democratic field stays sparse, freshman Republican Rep. Carlos Gimenez, who defeated then-Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in 2020, should have his second term in the Keys on lock. Solid Republican.