A pair of voting-rights groups whose lawsuit led to the state’s current congressional districts being struck down by the Florida Supreme Court say that a new proposal appears to be tilted to favor a Republican congressman in South Florida. In a letter to state House and Senate leaders, the League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause Florida said a “base map” crafted by legislative staff members and currently working its way through a special session largely follows the Supreme Court’s ruling. The court last month found that current districts violated the anti-gerrymandering “Fair Districts” standards approved by Florida voters in 2010. But League of Women Voters President Pamela Goodman and Common Cause Chairman Peter Butzin said the base map appears to try to protect Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo after the Supreme Court ordered lawmakers to unite the city of Homestead in one district. That shift would add thousands of African-American voters to Curbelo’s swing district.
Because all congressional districts must have almost precisely the same population, map drawers then had to shift some population out of Curbelo’s seat and into the district of Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Goodman and Butzin said the areas in Miami-Dade County that were moved — known as Richmond Heights, Palmetto Estates, and West Perrine — were chosen because they were African-American and likely to vote for a Democratic candidate.
“While complying with the letter of the court’s opinion by keeping Homestead whole, this move accomplished the same partisan result,” Goodman and Butzin wrote. “By its decisions, the Legislature increased the chances that a Republican could win in (Curbelo’s district). … The partisan effect is to create a ‘wash’ or an alternative means to perpetuate and, in fact, increase the Republican advantage of the Homestead split.”