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Court-ordered redistricting has moved a number of state prisons into Brown’s district, decreasing the minority voting population
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
JACKSONVILLE (CFP) — Florida Republicans are hoping that court-ordered congressional redistricting will pack enough non-voting prisoners in U.S. Rep. Corinne Brown’s district to imperil the 12-term Democratic lawmaker.
Attendees at a meeting of North Florida Republicans held in August discussed the implications of a new configuration for Brown’s district that includes a number of prisons, which will drop the African-American voting population in the district and improve GOP prospects.
A recording of the meeting was originally obtained by Politico Florida.
Prefacing her remarks by making sure there were no reporters in the room, State Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernadina Beach, called the redistricting “a perfect storm” for Brown.
Adressing a Republican official from a Baker County, which is being added to Brown’s district and has a large prison population, she said, “You can be the person who can help get rid of Corrine Brown.”
“We do not take into consideration where these people live. It would not be constitutional to take into consideration where they live.”
Adkins later issued an email apologizing if her remarks “offended anyone,” explaining that the conversation was her attempt to explain the ongoing controversy over reapportionment.
Adkins comments were not new. In fact, they echo complaints Brown herself has made about including 18 state prisons in the newly configured 5th District. She has filed suit in U.S. District Court to block the redistricting, which had been ordered by the Florida Supreme Court after it stuck down the current congressional map in July.
A circuit court judge in Tallahassee began a hearing September 24 to choose among seven competing maps. The state Supreme Court will make the final decision.
State lawmakers were unable to agree on a redrawn map during a special session in August. However, both the House and Senate versions of the map change Brown’s district from a north-south configuration to an east-west alignment stretching from central Jacksonville west through counties along the Georgia border to the Tallahassee area.
That change would add rural areas of North Florida, including four counties that are home to a number of state prisons. Adkins alluded to that fact in her remarks at the meeting, asking the other attendees, “What’s the primary industry in North Florida?” The answer was “prisons.”
Because prisoners count toward the population size of a district but cannot vote, including the prisons will reduce the overall size of the voting age population. And to the degree that prison populations are disproportionately made up of minorities, the minority population of the district will drop as a result.
Brown’s current district has a black voting age population of 50 percent. The new district’s black voting age population is 45 percent, including the new felons who cannot vote.
The state Supreme Court ruled in July that Brown’s north-south district—which snaked through northeast and central Florida from Jacksonville to Orlando to pick up black voters and was at one point the width of a highway—violated two anti-gerrymandering amendments Florida voters added to the state constitution in 2010. It also struck down seven other districts, leading to a wholesale redrawing of the congressional map.
The high court ruled that lawmakers in the GOP-controlled legislature impermissibly drew the lines to improve their party’s electoral prospects, something the anti-gerrymandering amendments forbid.
Listen to a recording of the Republican meeting: