Florida’s prison population is fast becoming a point of contention in the Legislature’s attempt to redraw the state’s congressional districts. The last Census counted more than 160,000 people in Florida correctional facilities, and they cannot vote. But they can skew how districts are drawn, and ultimately who represents the state in the U.S. House of Representatives. That is exactly what U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, is convinced is happening in North Florida. Brown said the proposed new Congressional District 5 stretching from Jacksonville to Tallahassee will see a reduction in the percentage of black residents who are of voting age — a key measure used to ensure black voters can elect who they want to represent them in Congress — from 50 percent to 45 percent under the map that passed the House on Tuesday and is expected to be before the Senate on Wednesday. But Brown, who is suing the Legislature to block the redrawing of her district, said the reduction of the black voting age population in her district could be even greater because her new district would have 17,000 prisoners in it — giving it one of the highest prison populations in the state. Her current district has just 10,000.
“You know that this is a non-performing area because you have 18 prisons,” Brown told the Senate last week, contending her district will be harder for black candidates to win if redrawn as planned.
Because the percentage of black inmates is proportionally higher than in the rest of the population, it can look like the black voting age population is higher in Brown’s new district than it really is, her supporters argue. In Florida, 46 percent of the prison population is black, yet just 16 percent of the state’s population is, according to the Prison Policy Initiative, a nonprofit national group advocating for changing how prisons are tallied in the Census.
Full Article: Prison population affecting Florida’s redistricting fight.