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Corrine Brown's snake-like district draws yet another lawsuit

Florida’s famously convoluted congressional district, held by Democrat U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown of Jacksonville, is under fire again as two Gainesville men have filed a lawsuit asking a federal court to order the Legislature to redraw the map before the November election. 

William Everett Warinner and James C. Miller, Sr., both registered voters in Brown’s district, claim that the “serpentine route” of the meandering district violates their constitutional rights to equal protection because it packs blacks into the district in an effort to “bleach” the adjoining districts to benefit Republicans. 

Warinner is among the plaintiffs already challenging Florida’s entire congressional redistricting map in state court, alleging that it violates the redistricting amendments in the state constitutional because the map was drawn with partisan intent. They are represented by some of that same law firms that represent the state and federal Democratic parties. Download Brown Amended Complaint E-Filed

According to the complaint against Secretary of State Ken Detzner, and amended on Thursday, plaintiffs claim they are being deprived of their 14th Amendment right to equal protection because the district was drawn with race as the predominant factor. They want a court to throw out the map and prevent another election from being held using those district boundaries.

Detzner’s lawyers have asked the three-judge panel assigned to the case in Orlando, to either dismiss the lawsuit or change the venue to Tallahassee.  Download FL warinner 20140109 MTD

The plaintiffs acknowledge that they have attempted to obtain a remedy in state court but have “encountered many obstacles to obtaining relief, largely caused by the Florida Legislature’s and third-party political consultants’ continued refusal to produce relevant evidence.”

The Florida Supreme Court in December ordered the Legislature and its staff members to testify under oath about their intentions when drawing the congressional districts. A trial date has been set for May 19, nearly two weeks after the filing deadline for congressional races in Florida. 

“Plaintiffs are reasonably concerned that yet another congressional election will take place based on a constitutionally inform map,’’ the plaintiffs wrote in their complaint.

Brown, a Democrat who has occupied the snake-shaped district since it was first drawn by legislators in 1992, has defended the district in court challenges of the past.

The plaintiffs allege that “one of the ways the Florida Legislature packed African-American voters into Congressional District 5 as by moving a significant part of the African-American population out of the town of Sanford, previously in Congressional District 7, into Congressional District 5. Then, to make up for that opulation loss, they moved part of ForestCity, a suburb with an approximately 80% white population, into Congressional District 7.” 

They note that the state argues that its map "closely track" a map proposed by the NAACP. Florida's redistricting amendment requires that legislators not only refrain from protecting minorities and incumbents, but do protect voting minorities.

The plaintiff's claim, however, that the district reduces the influence of black voters in adjacent districts and proves that the Legislature “subordinated traditional race-neutral districting principles to racial considerations when creating Congressional District 5.”

Tampa Bay Times reporter Adam C. Smith contributed to this report.