USF Poli Sci Students Redraw Florida's Congressional Maps

USF Political Science students review a congressional redistricting map
A student team's Florida Congressional redistricting map
TAMPA (2011-11-2) -

Students in a USF Political Science class are learning first-hard the challenge Florida legislators face when it comes to congressional redistricting.

Fifteen teams of juniors and seniors in the "Florida Politics and Government" course had just two weeks to draw up new boundaries for the state's 27 districts.

Political Science Professor Susan MacManus, who teaches the class says -- just like the real world -- the students' maps had to adhere to laws that protect minority groups' voting rights. Unlike real-life lawmakers, though, the students didn't seem to let partisan politics influence how they re-drew district lines.

"They're not as concerned about the partisan mix, and really, that was one of the purposes of Amendment Six is to take a lot of the partisanship out of the drawing, and so they're much more attentive to just meet the letter of the law than they are about partisan concerns," said MacManus.

"That said, of course, I have almost as many Republicans as Democrats in this class," she added. "It's a pretty evenly divided class -- I tell them every session, 'You look just like Florida!'"

In general, the students agreed with MacManus' assessment.
"I don't think it (political affiliation) really mattered as much," said senior Ashley Chapman, "because we knew that we had to get the job done."

"We were more concerned with the voters," added senior Jorge Garcia, "and we just left our political beliefs and philosophies out of the equation. I think that's what the legislators need to do as well."

And senior Dallas Petrovich says the experience led him to a conclusion not expressed too often today: "I have a newfound respect for the legislators who are creating this map. It's very tough and difficult and I respect what they do."

The students used the same redistricting software found at the state's website to create the maps, and then presented them in class a day after the November 1st deadline for public submission of maps created by citizens.

Half of the student groups were even able to get extra credit in the course by submitting their proposals to the state for consideration.

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