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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rep. Corrine Brown calls redistricting ruling 'seriously flawed'

Super strong statement from Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, about today's redisctricting ruling by the Florida Supreme Court. Brown's snake-shaped Congressional District 5 is one of eight districts the court ruled have to be redrawn for the 2016 election. Here's Brown's statement:

“The decision by the Florida Supreme Court is seriously flawed and entirely fails to take into consideration the rights of minority voters.  It also fails to recognize federal law, in that it did not incorporate the spirit of the 1964 Voting Rights Act, which protects minority voting rights and clearly supersedes the contradictory standards set by the state’s Fair Districts requirements.

“Prior to the 1992 election, Florida had not had a federal African American representative since Josiah Thomas Walls, in 1871, a time span of 129 years.  Nationally, prior to the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, between the years of 1832-1965 (133 years), there were only 28 elected African Americans.  From 1965-Present (49 years), there were/are 103 elected African Americans (four times as many, in nearly one-third the time span).

“Overturning the current District 5 map ignores the essential redistricting principle of maintaining communities of interest or minority access districts.  Certainly, minority communities do not live in compact, cookie-cutter like neighborhoods, and excessive adherence to district “compactness,” while ignoring the maintenance of minority access districts, fragments minority communities across the state.  The current District 5 map is essentially the same as the previous District 3 map, which was drawn by the courts and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, in adherence to the principles of the Voting Rights Act.  In particular, there is one critical section of the Voting Rights Act which strictly prohibits the fracturing of communities of minority voters into a variety of districts.  This element of the Act is essential in the maintenance of minority representation not just in the state of Florida, but across the entire nation.  

“Moreover, the reason why African Americans live in the areas in which they do in the first place is a direct result of historical redlining, clearly exemplified by living patterns both here in the state of Florida and easily visible in other states.  In fact, after Emancipation and the Civil War, the Black population of northeastern Florida moved along the St. Johns River, which extends from Jacksonville to just north of Orlando.  Because the land was prone to flooding, it was only natural that the poorest Floridians, including freed slaves, would settle there.  Segregated housing patterns, demanded by restrictive covenants and enforced by Florida courts, kept the African-American population together well into the mid-20th Century, which is the central reason why these communities are segregated into those residential patterns across the state.

“For most of my adult life, there were no minority members of Congress elected from Florida, and few African-Americans elected to the Florida House and Senate.  That changed in 1992 when I was elected to Congress together with Rep. Carrie Meek from Miami and Rep. Alcee Hastings from Ft. Lauderdale.

“Yet to obtain this seat I had to file a lawsuit.  I fought for four African American seats in the courts, and in the end, we reached a compromise and got three, again – based on the tenets of The Voting Rights Act.  As a result of this lawsuit, in 1993, after nearly 130 years, the state of Florida had three African American federal representatives.  And for the first time in many years, minority community members in the state were represented by people who truly understood them; who grew up in the same neighborhoods and attended the same churches and schools as they did.  I firmly believe that I, as an African American legislator, can understand and empathize with the issues my constituents confront on a profound level since I share the same racial and cultural background as they do, and have had to battle many of the same challenges and prejudices that they have.

“District 5 in Florida, and minority access districts across the nation cannot, will not be eliminated, particularly after the hard fought gains we have made during the last 50 years.  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.”

[Last modified: Thursday, July 9, 2015 12:42pm]

    

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