LatinoJustice Files Amicus Brief Requesting Florida Supreme Court to Redraw Congressional Maps

LatinoJustice PRLDEF on December 1st, 2014 filed an amicus “friend of the court” brief with the Florida Supreme Court in the pending appeal challenging the Florida Legislature’s 2012 congressional redistricting plan. The Leon County Circuit Court in a decision and order issued on July 10, 2014 had found parts of the 2012 Congressional redistricting plan unconstitutional, and in turn directed the legislature to promulgate new maps. The Florida legislature in an expedited special session in August subsequently passed a new plan which drastically reduced and diluted the Latino voting age population in CD 9 which encompasses large parts of Orange, Polk and Osceola counties.

Our amicus brief which was filed on behalf of Florida New Majority and Mi Familia Vota in addition to LatinoJustice contends that the remedial maps adapted by the State legislature and subsequently approved by the Circuit Court has the effect of retrogressively diluting and diminishing the Latino community’s opportunity to elect representatives of their choosing. Amici raise questions and concerns about the legislature’s lack of adequate review and demographic analysis, and failure to comply with state constitutional provisions protecting the voting rights and equal opportunity of racial and language minorities to participate in the political process.

The original lawsuit(s) challenging the state’s February 2012 congressional redistricting maps were filed by a number of individuals and advocacy groups including the League of Women Voters. Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis in a July 10, 2014 opinion found that the 2012 congressional map drawn by the legislature to be unconstitutional, specifically finding that several districts had been drawn by lawmakers with improper partisan intent to protect certain incumbents. In an order dated August 1, 2014, the Circuit Court directed the state legislature to redraw the maps which they subsequently did in a special session that month.

“The court should evaluate the maps from the perspective of how they unfairly impact Latino and African American voters,” said Martha Pardo, Associate Counsel in LatinoJustice’s new Southeastern Regional Office. “The unprecedented growth of Latinos in Central Florida was one of the main causes of the state getting two new congressional districts after the last decennial census in 2010, and therefore it doesn’t make sense to dilute their vote nor their contribution. The court has the power to correct this injustice and take over the map making process if they find it harms protected citizens and voters.”

“This reduction, from 41.4% under the 2012 Congressional District Map7 to 37.23% under the Coalition Appellants’ Remedial Map 8 and 38.37% under the Legislature’s Remedial Map, 9 effectively diminishing or abridging the Latino community’s ability to elect a candidate of its choice by diluting the vote, and with retrogressive effect.”

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