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Voting-Rights Groups Ask Judge To Toss Rep. Corrine Brown's Redistricting Lawsuit

Ryan Benk

A coalition of voting rights groups is asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Jacksonville Congresswoman Corrine Brown (D-FL5).  

Brown says her new congressional district violates the Voting Rights Act because it limits minority representation.

But a coalition of voting-rights groups, including the League of Women Voters, filed a 36-page motion last week to get the federal suit dismissed. Brown’s lawyers have up to two weeks to respond.

Her congressional district was found to violate Florida’s anti-gerrymandering Fair Districts Amendments and was redrawn to stretch from Jacksonville west to Gadsden County. It originally snaked from Northeast Florida south to Orlando.

Voting-rights groups and state Republican leaders have been locked in a six-year battle over whether the Legislature puporsely drew maps to create safer districts for GOP incumbents by packing minority voters into certain areas.

A judge agreed with the groups and mandated the Republican-controlled Legislature return to the drawing board. Brown has consistently objected to their changes.

She says her redrawn district makes it difficult for a black person to be elected, but her argument hasn't stopped former Democratic state Sen. Al Lawson, who is African-American, from declaring a run against her in the new district.

Still, comments made by State Rep. Janet Adkins (R-Fernandina Beach) seem to bolster Brown’s claim. At a closed-door North Florida Republican Caucus meeting in September, Adkins said Brown’s new district made her vulnerable because it includes far more minority residents who are in prison and can't vote.

Other legislative leaders have suggested that even with the 18 prisons in Brown’s new district, it’d still be very difficult for a Republican to unseat her.

The U.S. District Court in Tallahassee is set to hear  oral arguments in the case March 9, but the court could decide to toss the case or hear oral arguments on last Wednesday’s motion before then.

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.