New research argues Florida’s Democrats would not benefit from “compact, contiguous” legislative districts

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Jonathan Rodden and Jowei Chen argue that Democrats are underrepresented in Congress and state legislatures because they tend to live in high-density areas. Geographically-compact districting plans will tend to pack Democratic voters into districts where they have 80% of the vote or whatever, thus wasting their votes. They do a voter- and precinct-level analysis of recent elections and find:

In contemporary Florida, partisans are arranged in geographic space in such a way that virtually any districting scheme favoring contiguity and compactness will generate substantial electoral bias in favor of the Republican Party. This result is driven largely by the partisan asymmetry in voters’ residential patterns: Since the realignment of the party system, Democrats have tended to live in dense, homogeneous neighborhoods that aggregate into landslide Democratic districts, while Republicans live in more sparsely populated neighborhoods that aggregate into geographically larger and more politically heterogeneous districts. This phenomenon appears to substantially explain the pro-Republican bias observed in Florida’s recent legislative elections.

Andrew Gelman who posted Rodden and Chen’s white paper on the must-read, goes on to ask: Maybe multimember districts would be a way to balance the playing field. Is this a proposal that Democrats in Florida (or elsewhere) should be making?

Suffice to say, the answer to that question is, umm, no. For Rodden and Chen’s original paper, click here. For further discussion, go here.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.