Rep. Corrine Brown responds to judge's decision

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Complete statement from U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville:

"Judge Lewis' ruling this morning to call the legislature back into session and force a redrawing of Florida's congressional maps with such a short timetable is certainly not in the best interests of Florida voters, and in reality, it is only the Governor who can call the Legislature back into session. Given the extremely poor history of our state with respect to voting and voting rights, dating all the way back to the days of President Rutherford Hayes, when African Americans were essentially precluded from political office, to more recently, with the dubious vote counting in the presidential elections of 2000, to the elections of 2012, when the state of Florida did not even complete counting ballots until after President Obama was declared the winner. Additionally, the maps in question before the judge were already approved in a bipartisan fashion in the state legislature, and were only approved after numerous statewide hearings on the maps, which allowed for input from all interested parties on the makeup of the district lines.

"In addition, as I have stated previously, I firmly believe that the lawsuit concerning the Florida congressional district maps is, in reality, part of a bigger movement to diminish congressional districts represented by minorities not just in Florida, but across the nation. If successful in the state of Florida, those behind this movement will continue to attack minority seats and minority voting rights in every state throughout the nation. As Dr. Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida has maintained, ‘Lewis' next move will be closely watched beyond North-Central Florida…..(and) you're going to see a lot of similar efforts with Fair Districts amendments in other states' if this succeeds,' she concluded (Ocala Star-Banner, July 17, 2014). In the Florida redistricting case, it is particularly noteworthy that the main district that was targeted by the plaintiffs was Congressional District 5.

"I have explained previously, and still maintain that overturning the current District 5 map ignores one of the central principles of redistricting: maintaining communities of interest or minority access districts. In fact, the current District 5 map is essentially the same as the previous District (3), which was drawn by the courts and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, in adherence to the principles of the Voting Rights Act. 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.

"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)."