Editorial: Extreme districts

Editorial Board | The Gainesville Sun | 05/24/2014

A trial that started this week will hopefully end the practice of Florida drawing congressional and legislative districts to benefit a particular party or candidate.

The League of Women Voters and other groups filed the lawsuit. It alleges that the GOP-led Legislature violated the 2010 Fair Districts state constitutional amendments by drawing districts for partisan purposes.

The case has major implications for the gerrymandered district of U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown. The Democratic representative's district starts in Jacksonville, winding through east Gainesville and ending around Orlando.

The Tampa Bay Times once described the district as looking like "someone crushed a giant bug in the Ocala National Forest."

The federal Voting Rights Act has been used to justify the district's unusual shape. When Brown was first elected in 1992, she was among the first black representatives elected to Congress from Florida since Reconstruction.

Now that Brown is serving her 11th term, the district seems more like incumbent protection. It has also helped Republicans in neighboring districts — such as Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Gainesville — by removing minority voters who tend to vote for the other party from their districts.

Anyone concerned with protecting the rights of those voters should watch a 2012 video of Yoho that surfaced this week, in which he suggested that voting should be limited to property owners.

Gerrymandering has created districts in which lawmakers appeal to the extremes rather than the middle. Hopefully the ongoing trial will conclude with a decision that helps remove politics from the drawing of districts.

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