U.S. Rep. Wilson asks court to choose a different congressional map
Making a last-ditch appeal to the Florida Supreme Court, U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson asked the court in an "open letter" on Wednesday to reject a proposed map drawn by the challengers in the Florida redistricting fight because it is "needlessly compact" and removes the Port of Miami from her district.
Wilson, D-Miami, a former state senator who created the "Florida's Ports Caucus" to "coordinate federal action in support of Florida's harbors and waterways" argues that she prefers an alternate option that keeps the port in her district.
Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis last week recommended a map drawn by the League of Women Voters and Common Cause best meet the criteria of the Fair Districts amendments to the Florida constitution. The Florida Supreme Court, which must approve the final map, set a Nov. 2 hearing to hear arguments about the recommendation. Wilson argues that two other maps offered by the challengers are better options for her district.
Here's Wilson's letter:
I am writing to humbly beseech the wisdom of the Florida Supreme Court concerning the redistricting of Florida’s congressional districts and express the grave implications of the lower court’s ruling of October 9, 2015. I harbor deep concerns regarding the redistricting process and the legal proceedings that have resulted.
As you are aware, before the 2010 census and resultant redistricting, District 24 was District 17. District 17 was classified in the 2010 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index as the “most suffering” congressional district in the nation. The newly created District 24 included Port Miami and other economic engines, which was a huge economic boost for the poorest and “most suffering” district in the nation and helped to shed that unfortunate designation.
As it stands with the lower court’s recommendation of the CP-1 map, the port and several other economic catalysts will be removed from District 24 and the district will undoubtedly revert back to being the “most suffering.” This would be a regression for the condition of the district and have a substantial negative impact on the district’s development.
The coalition’s maps CP-2 and CP-3 accomplishes this Court’s objective when the case was sent down for further action. However, the lower court treated those maps as afterthoughts and only refers to them as examples. They both address the higher court’s concern without creating the upheaval of CP-1.
It is especially disheartening and morally wrong that a coalition of Democrats recommended to the judiciary to sever the port and other economic engines from the “most suffering” district in America. We always think of Democrats as protecting the poor and lifting the downtrodden. In this case, they have failed miserably in that mission.
Further, the lower court referenced taking a scientific approach to its reasoning for accepting the plaintiff’s CP-1 map. In the CP-1 configuration, District 24 is disproportionately more compact than any of the districts 20 through 27. District 24 is twice as compact (.6016) as the average of districts 20 through 27 (.3097). Due to PortMiami’s and other economic catalysts lack of residents, including those vital economic engines into District 24 will help to alleviate the district being overly compact and minimally impact other districts.
The coalition map CP-1 needlessly concentrates African Americans into an excessively compacted geographic area. This is tantamount to “packing” voters and is contrary to the tenets of fair districting. The Supreme Court recently ruled that this practice is illegal based on a case that resulted from Alabama’s redistricting process, Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama. The action of Florida’s lower court is more troubling because it seems that CP-1 seeks to immediately confine residents behind political lines.
During the Segregation Era of American History railroad tracks were often used as a line of demarcation for communities. They separated black and white, as well as rich and poor. The lower court’s ruling accomplishes that same feat using political lines. It isolates poor people behind district lines and is a violation of the spirit of the Voting Rights Act as it intentionally separates races for voting purposes to give one party a political advantage.
I am disappointed with the decision of the lower court and if CP-1 is adopted District 24 will revert back to the “most suffering” district in the nation.
Frederica S. Wilson
Member of Congress
Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson is a third-term Congresswoman from Florida representing parts of Northern Miami-Dade and Southeast Broward counties. A former state legislator and school principal, she is the founder of the 5000 Role Models for Excellence Project, a mentoring program for young males at risk of dropping out of school. Congresswoman Wilson also founded the Florida Ports Caucus, a bipartisan taskforce that coordinates federal action in support of Florida’s harbors and waterways.