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Reps. Brown, Diaz-Balart warn minorities will lose out in Fair Districts

U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown and Mario Diaz-Balart left the nation's capital for the Florida state capital on Monday to give their take on the potential impact of the proposed Fair Districts constitutional amendment for redistricting.

The representatives spoke at a joint meeting of the House and Senate redistricting committees, which have already begun dealing with the redistricting that will affect Florida's legislative and congressional seats before the 2012 elections.

Brown, a north Central Florida Democrat, cautioned that redistricting changes, particularly the new standards proposed in the Fair Districts amendment, could erode the hard-fought gains in representation achieved in recent decades.

"If it's in the Constitution and it's written a certain way, we could lose major minority representation," Brown said.  "I am concerned. I do not want to regress back to before 1992. So I do not support this initiative."

Echoed South Florida Republican Diaz-Balart, a Florida legislator for 14 years before going to Congress: "The initiative, I think, puts at risk the minority districts. ...this creates a set of standards that are conflicting. And it may take away the ability of the Florida Legislature to create districts that give minority communitues a chance to elect a minority representative. Looking at the standards proposed, I frankly don't know how any Legislature could comply."

Brown and Diaz-Balart were part of the lawsuit in 1992 that worked to ensure minority representation in largely minority districts in Florida. In his 14 years as a state legislator, Diaz-Balart, a Republican, participated in the 1990 and 2000 redistricting cycles.

"Do you know that before I got elected, we had not had an African American in Congress from Florida in 129 years,although we had the population of African Americans in Florida?" Brown told the state senators and representatives. "We have these pockets that have not had proper representation throughout the history of Florida. This is not about me, because I could die tomorrow. This is about making sure, as we move forward, that we have representation."

There are now three redistricting standards. The Fair Districts proposal would add six more, including not favoring or disfavoring a political party or an incumbent and making the district population as equal as "practicable."