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Sparring Over Minority Performance Marks Day Two Of Senate Map Trial

The Senate redistricting trail moved into its second day.
Nick Evans

The second day in court hearings over Florida’s Senate map dug into the details of demographic performance.  The sides are still battling over what’s necessary for minority districts to perform.

In a Leon County courtroom Tuesday, attorneys grilled experts testifying about a set of proposed Senate maps.  David King, representing a coalition of voting rights groups, questions the legitimacy of the Senate’s witness, University of Utah political scientist Baodong Liu. 

“The question is in your report you say that Russell—the black candidate—was defeated with a black VAP of 20.2,” King says.  “And I’m suggesting to you, sir, that you’re wrong about that.”

Liu admits the error, but he says it doesn’t change his overall analysis.  The Senate’s case relies in part on his findings to defend districts with minority voting age populations, or VAP, well above 50 percent.  Liu believes it’s the best way to guarantee minorities can elect a candidate of choice.

“Sometimes coalition districts may provide some opportunity for African Americans to win but that kind of opportunity is much less than the majority status districts,” Liu says.

Seems reasonable, but the plaintiffs argue minority populations actually need much less.  Think of a district where four in ten African Americans are Democrats.  If the district is blue—say six in ten voters are Democrats—the African American population can dominate the primary, placing its candidate in a winnable general election race.  The plaintiffs argue pushing minority populations above 50 percent as Liu suggests can actually dilute their overall political impact.

Nick Evans came to Tallahassee to pursue a masters in communications at Florida State University. He graduated in 2014, but not before picking up an internship at WFSU. While he worked on his degree Nick moved from intern, to part-timer, to full-time reporter. Before moving to Tallahassee, Nick lived in and around the San Francisco Bay Area for 15 years. He listens to far too many podcasts and is a die-hard 49ers football fan. When Nick’s not at work he likes to cook, play music and read.