Florida Democrats plotted with top leaders and consultants to redraw congressional districts to benefit their party, according to new court records that show they were just as interested in gerrymandering as Republicans.
Democratic-leaning groups are challenging the new congressional maps in court, saying Republicans broke a state constitutional amendment by drawing districts that favored or disfavored political parties and incumbents.
Earlier this month, Democrats unearthed emails showing how Republican consultants analyzed and suggested maps that benefitted the GOP during “brainstorming meetings.”
Turns out, Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Scott Arcenaux was doing the same thing for his party, the new emails show. They also indicate the plans Democrats drew were shopped to Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Weston congresswoman, Boca Raton U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, Miramar U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, state Senate Democratic leader Nan Rich and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
“At the insistence of Arcenaux, we crafted a Hispanic district, but barely Hispanic, that would likely result in the defeat of Republican Rep. Rivera,” Marc Gersh, consultant with NCEC Services wrote another Democrat about two Miami-area congressmen on Jan. 5, 2012.
“One more concern: I hope Arcenaux has done his politics with our Dem. Incumbents,” Gersh continued. “Some of them many not like what we did, especially Hastings and [Rep. Corrine] Brown, but also [Rep. Kathy] Castor. However, in order to accomplish our goals, all changes were necessary.”
Diaz-Balart, one of the most-bipartisan members of Congress, went on to win his district. Rivera went on to lose his race, albeit due to scandal and not the maps that were ultimately drawn.
Indeed, it’s unclear at this point in the court case whether any of the congressional or legislative districts were drawn based on the Republican emails or Democratic emails released so far.
Also, the Republican emails have the potential of be more crucial to the case. The lawsuit is against Republican politicians and the maps drawn by a GOP-led Legislature. If documentation can clearly show that Republicans used partisan data to draw the maps, the plaintiffs win.
The Republican actions in Florida matter more because the GOP holds outsized majorities in the Legislature, which drew the new legislative and congressional maps in 2011 to make sure every district has the same population.
So though Democrats might have been interested in gerrymandering for their political purposes, they were far less able to do so.
Just before the maps were drawn, voters passed constitutional amendments barring lawmakers from intentionally making partisan considerations when they draw the maps, which happens every ten years after the U.S. census.
One district that has long-troubled redistricting purists: the seat held by Jacksonville-area Congresswoman Corrine Brown.
“We have a major issue with the Corrine Brown district and need your advice,” Arcenaux wrote on Jan. 5, 2012. “As you know it is racially gerrymandered to snake from Jacksonville to Orlando….–this was a racially Gerrymandered district to start- do we have to keep doing it?”
Another consultant, Brian Smoot, wrote in a March 20, 2012 email that the Democrats were getting Schultz and Deutch to approve their work.
“There is currently a map that has been produced by NCEC that has been signed off on my DWS and Ted Deutch,” he wrote, noting that it hadn’t been used “at this point.”
Two days later, he expressed concerns with another map: “my bigger fear is offending deutch. i think eric has fl-22 slightly better now without hitting deuch [sic].”