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Prison population affecting Florida's redistricting fight

TALLAHASSEE — Florida's prison population is fast becoming a point of contention in the Legislature's attempt to redraw the state's congressional districts.

The last census counted more than 160,000 people in Florida correctional facilities and they cannot vote. But they can skew how districts are drawn, and ultimately who represents the state in the U.S. House of Representatives. That is exactly what U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, who represents District 5, is convinced is happening in North Florida.

Brown said the proposed new District 5 stretching from Jacksonville to Tallahassee would see a reduction in the percentage of black residents who are of voting age — a key measure used to ensure black voters can elect who they want to represent them in Congress. She said the percentage would go from 50 percent to 45 percent under the map that passed the House on Tuesday and is expected to be before the Senate today.

But Brown, who is suing the Legislature to block the redrawing of her district, said the diminishment of the black voting age population in her district could be even greater because her new district would have 17,000 prisoners in it — giving it one of the highest prison populations in the state. Her current district has 10,000 prisoners.

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