State Awaits Outcome of Impending Overhaul of Congressional Districts

Congresswoman Corrine Brown

Last week a judge called for a sweeping overhaul of Florida’s electoral map, including the congressional district held by long term congresswoman Corrine Brown.
Judge Terry Lewis recommended new boundaries for the state’s 27 congressional districts. Registered Democratic voters outnumber Republicans in Florida, but the GOP holds a 17-10 advantage in the state’s congressional delegation.

Gerrymandering — in which parties in power redraw electoral districts to give themselves an edge — is a nationwide phenomenon that many blame for Washington’s legislative paralysis, since it makes it harder for mainstream politicians who compromise with their opponents to get re-elected.
Florida voters sought to end this by approving a 2010 referendum amending the state Constitution to apply “Fair Districts” standards, which mandate that legislators cannot draw districts intended to help incumbents or a political party.

Judge Lewis ultimately sided with a map prepared by a coalition including the League of Women Voters of Florida. One of the key changes would radically alter the 5th district, now represented by Rep. Corrine Brown, from a north-south configuration to one that stretches east-west across northern Florida, from Jacksonville to just west of Tallahassee. As a result, the city of Tallahassee would be split, and Rep. Gwen Graham, the daughter of former Gov. Bob Graham, would be placed in a solidly Republican district.

Brown has sued in federal court to block the shift. During the trial, Lewis questioned shifting the district even though the Supreme Court recommended it. In his ruling, he accepted the map that were agreed to by both the Legislature and the groups that sued.

“I am not at liberty to draw something different than what is contained within the maps proposed by the parties,” Lewis wrote.
Brown blasted the ruling and continues to argue that the new district will disenfranchise minority voters partly because some of the black voters counted in the district live in prisons. She vowed to press ahead with her federal lawsuit.

“As a people, African Americans have fought too hard to get to where we are now, and we certainly are not taking any steps backwards,” she said in a statement.

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