Florida's 5th congressional district represented by Congresswoman Corrine Brown has long been a subject of controversy because of its odd shape, which snakes from Jacksonville to Orlando. On Aug. 1, a Florida judge ordered the state legislature to redraw the congressional map by Aug. 15, which could put Brown's district at risk as well as the seat held by Republican Rep. Dan Webster.
According to circuit court Judge Terry Lewis, the map was drawn to favor the Republican Party, which violates a state law that prohibits creating districts that favor a particular party or incumbent. A group of organizations challenged the map, arguing that GOP consultants used a "shadow" process to draw the districts in a way that benefits Republicans.
Florida's House Speaker Will Weatherford has agreed to draw a new map but is balking at implementing it in time for the 2014 election cycle, in part because voters have already begun casting ballots for the Aug. 26 primary.
Brown believes that the court order violates the rights of African-Americans in a state that she says has a history of disenfranchisement.
"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," she said. "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."
Before her election in 1992, Brown added, an African-American had not represented Florida since 1871.
The Congressional Black Caucus also is disturbed by the ruling and angered by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's support for the lawsuit challenging the map because overturning it could cut into the Republicans' majority. The DCCC recruits, cultivates and supports House candidates financially and in efforts to get out the vote.
In a sternly worded letter to the DCCC chairman, Rep. Steve Israel and Rep. Marcia Fudge shared the group's ongoing concern.
“Per our prior discussion, we are extremely disturbed by the DCCC’s efforts to dismantle CBC districts in states that have historically proven to be difficult to elect minority members. Considering the history of discrimination through efforts such as gerrymandering, the recent actions reflect the discrimination of days past," Fudge wrote.
The CBC chairwoman added that there “are instances where these types of lawsuits maybe [sic] warranted,” but “the recent Florida lawsuit aimed at dismantling the 5th Congressional district is not one. The 5th district was approved by the U.S. Supreme Court and has been virtually unchanged for the last 20 years. It was deemed constitutional then and it is constitutional now.”
This is not the first time that DCCC and the CBC have clashed, nor is it likely to be the last. Black lawmakers have long complained that the campaign committee takes them for granted because for the most part their seats are safe. Not only does it not provide them with financial support, which some members could use, they've said, but it also has not taken advantage of the expertise and assistance that Democrats need to engage with and turn out African-American voters, which the party desperately needs.
Follow Joyce Jones on Twitter: @BETpolitichick.
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(Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)