Joe Geller demands racial polarization study become public ahead of redistricting hearing
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 9/22/21-Rep. Joseph Geller, D-Aventura, speaks during the House Redistricting Committee, Wednesday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

He said lawmakers should be privy to all numbers behind House-crafted cartography.

Rep. Joe Geller wants a glance at all relevant data before the House Redistricting Committee holds its final meeting. The ranking Democrat on the House Redistricting Committee sent a letter to Committee Chair Tom Leek asking for data the minority caucus has not seen.

“I share the expressed desire of the Speaker and chairmen to generate a constitutionally compliant Congressional map,” Geller wrote. “I strongly believe bringing the information I have requested into the sunshine is the best way to ensure confidence in the House’s final product.”

The letter is one of several sent to the House Redistricting Committee ahead of a meeting. There, the panel expects to advance a map dividing Florida into 28 congressional districts (H 8011) to the House floor.

Among the items Geller wants to see is a racial polarization study alluded to earlier this month before the House passed legislative maps. The first item listed in his letter is: “The actual functional/performance analysis conducted on all congressional districts. If a functional/performance analysis was not conducted on a specific district, I request that one be performed immediately and that the results be produced to the committee members.”

His letter asks for any analysis performed on non-dilution standards related to the federal Voting Rights Act. “This also encompasses any analysis completed to examine racial block voting including, but not limited to, homogeneous precinct analysis, bivariate ecological regression analysis, and ecological inference analysis,” Geller wrote. “I request this information even if it was generated or is maintained by outside counsel.”

Leek, an Ormond Beach Republican, acknowledged on the House floor that outside counsel had in fact contracted a study, but has said the information isn’t in possession of the Florida House.

“The analysis you’re talking about here is an analysis that needs to be performed by experts,” Leek said. “But the level of analysis or expertise is beyond staff so we used our counsel to help us with that.”

Rep. Tyler Sirois, chair of the House Congressional Redistricting Subcommittee, addressed the same study at the last meeting of that panel last week.

“The data that you’re referring to that Chair Leek spoke to on the floor is some of the advanced statistical analysis that legal counsel has assisted the House with conducting,” he said. Sirois added the research was an “expert analysis that was performed at the request of legal counsel.”

Should the maps be challenged in court, the study will likely eventually become public. But to date, it’s not been shared even with most lawmakers on the House Redistricting Committee.

Geller told Florida Politics a lack of transparency in the mapmaking process could ultimately create stumbles for maps in court.

“We want to see constitutionally compliant maps,” he said. “Frankly, this process was not as transparent as I think it should have been.”

Geller voted against legislative maps, along with most Democrats, and has problems with the congressional plan in the works in the House. He remains concerned that the congressional map produces no more minority access seats than appeared in cartography already in place based on 2010 population counts.

“We think the process has resulted in backsliding in terms of districts where minorities could elect a Representative of their choice,” he said. “I’m unconvinced by the congressional map the House has produced. I’m not sure that I think the Senate map is satisfactory, even though some think it’s better.”

While he feels submissions from Gov. Ron DeSantis seemed obviously unconstitutional, he won’t say the House-produced map does better. Unconstitutional, after all, is unconstitutional. “The Governor’s map, it’s easy to say,” Geller said. “I don’t want to say the others are better if closer analysis shows them to be equally unconstitutional.”

But that’s why the Aventura Democrat wants all data on cartography now. His letter also asks for any alternative configurations considered for districts along the way. The map under consideration at the next meeting is only the third draft published by House staff. By contrast, 14 maps were published by Senate staff or individual Senators. (Update: A previous version of this story said the committee would meet Thursday, but that meeting has been postponed)

The Senate total includes two maps created by Democratic Senators with regional changes to staff-produced cartography. One of those, submitted by Democratic Sen. Shevrin Jones, was passed as the Senate’s draft congressional map (S 8060).

But no Democratic amendments or submissions were filed in the House, and Geller maintains there was never any point.

“We weren’t about to provide some diversion that changes the focus from whether or not what the powers-that-be are passing is or is not constitutional,” Geller said. “In some circles that’s called whataboutism.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]

One comment

  • politics

    February 24, 2022 at 5:03 pm

    sounds like a electric charge thing oh my let me tell my friends put that back.

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