New maps threaten future of Black districts

admin | 3/1/2012, 4:30 a.m.

Hispanic voters numbers may double if court approves changes

The Florida Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments today over whether redrawn redistricting maps meet constitutional requirements. The State Senate, House and Attorney General believe the maps should be approved and want the Court to be limited in their reviewing power. But according to State Representative Mack Bernard (D-Dist. 84, West Palm Beach), the justices are simply doing their job to ensure that maps have not been drawn to favor or disfavor an incumbent. This is shaping up to be a showdown reminiscent of Gore vs. Bush in 2008, particularly as it relates to the scrutiny and level of commitment of the Supreme Court, he said. The Court has never requested the addresses of all of the members of the House and Senate before so they can look at the intent behind why and how certain districts were drawn. Different interest groups including the League of Women and the Florida Democratic Party have submitted legal briefs that oppose the proposed maps. Its more a legal thing at this point and both sides will present their cases, Bernard added. The Supreme Court will have to rule on the validity of the maps; it could be a long spring if they find them to be invalid because it [oral arguments] coincides with the last day of the session. Members of the House and Senate have been warned to pack some extra clothes and be prepared to stay for a special session. Congressional seats undergo a different approval process, going to the Governors desk for his signature or veto. But Democrats have challenged that plan as well litigation will be heard in Circuit Court.

Stafford fears that Black districts could lose historic base

If you take my district as an example, the dynamics of our voter population will change dramatically, said State Representative Cynthia Stafford (D-Dist. 109, Miami). Based on the proposed maps, both Northwestern High School and Liberty Square Housing Project would no longer be part of District 109. And it would pick up some of Hialeah, Opa-locka and a segment of Miami Gardens. Based on a briefing that she attended last week, Stafford says the old core of District 109s Black voting age would decrease from 61.1 percent to 50.62 percent; the Hispanic voting age population would almost double, from 22.6 percent to 45.73 percent. I wont say that I think this is good or bad what I will say is that while Blacks could keep the seat this time, in 10 years when the maps are redrawn again, District 109 could easily become mostly-Hispanic. Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson (FL-17) says that while the maps for her district and other members of Congress have been signed by the governor, we must now wait for challenges to be heard in court. Until the courts have completed their review of the redistricting maps, I will remain committed to serving my constituents in District 17, fighting for jobs, educational opportunities, affordable housing and relief for homeowners struggling with their mortgages. The biggest issue is to make sure end up with fairer-drawn districts I am not going to place unnecessary stress on the preliminary maps, said State Senator Oscar Braynon, II. I just want to make sure the process happens correctly. When asked what she thought about the proposed maps, State Representative Daphne Campbell (D-Dist. 108, Miami) replied, I am legally unable to comment because I sat on the redistricting committee for the House.