WASHINGTON – In the latest chapter in the state of Florida’s redistricting saga, U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) appealed her redistricting case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The state’s legislature adopted new congressional, state House and state Senate plans in 2012 using information gathered from the 2010 census, federal and state legal requirements, citizen testimony, public feedback and committee discussions. The district plans were designed to be implemented in the 2012 general election and the 2014 special and general elections.
The approved congressional and Senate district maps prompted several lawsuits, however. In December 2015, the Supreme Court of Florida and the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court in Leon County ordered lawmakers to draft new congressional and state Senate plans. A new plan for state Senate districts was adopted, and, under court order, the state legislature randomly re-numbered the districts included in the plan in January. In addition, the Florida Supreme Court approved adoption of a plan for congressional districts.
Brown and several African-American voters in north and central Florida challenged the redrawing of the state’s 5th Congressional District into an east-west configuration, as opposed to its former north-south orientation. In the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, the plaintiffs alleged that the redrawn district dilutes the ability of black voters to elect congressional representatives of their choice and that District 5 was redrawn in order to discriminate against black citizens.
The court rejected Brown’s redistricting challenge in an April 18 order, ruling that “the plaintiffs have not proven their case."
“The political voice of African-Americans in the state of Florida is critically important and should be heard by the highest court in the land,” Brown told the Florida Record.
Brown said she talked with her legal team and other legal experts following the district court ruling and ultimately decided to appeal the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“I have an obligation to those constituents to take this case to the U.S. Supreme Court because this district was created to give residents – many of them African-Americans who have been historically disenfranchised in the state of Florida – an opportunity to elect someone to represent their concerns in the halls of the U.S. Capitol,” Brown said.
Plaintiffs opposing the senate’s 2012 plan claimed in court documents that the plan “was drawn with systemic partisan intent in violation of Article III, Section 21 of the Florida Constitution.” Specifically, the challengers claimed that the legislature provided confidential drafts of the plan to “Republican partisan operatives,” sought feedback and advice on the plan from those partisan individuals, relied on partisan maps and deleted other relevant documents.
The congressional redistricting ruling was entered by the Florida Supreme Court in response to an appeal filed by lead plaintiff The League of Women Voters of Florida. Like the Senate map opposition, challengers of the congressional district plans cited the partisan influence on the drafting of the district maps.
The 2nd Circuit Court for Leon County’s plan for Senate districts includes 40 districts, with a population deviation of 9,002. Meanwhile, the congressional plan submitted by the Florida Supreme Court includes 27 districts with a population deviation of one.
“This case is about the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the voting rights of the constituents in the district I represent,” Brown said. “The boundaries of this district were drawn by federal judges with the goal of establishing a level of fairness to the minority communities in Florida who had no previous voice in Washington.”