Suncoast reacts to Florida redistricting scandal

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Posted: Friday, July 11, 2014 4:31 pm

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. -- It's back to the drawing board for two of Florida's congressional districts. A judge has ruled the current boundaries are illegal.

The new lines were drawn by the Republican-controlled legislature in 2012, and the judge ruled they clearly favored the Republican Party. And one of the areas affected includes a portion of Manatee County.

In the landmark trial, Florida Circuit Judge Terry Lewis found the state's Republican legislature did indeed break the law when drawing up political maps in 2012; a redistricting that many say is misrepresenting minorities.

"The question is, is it okay to gerrymander when you want to have a social outcome of say more Hispanics, or more Africans, or whatever; but it's not okay to gerrymander the other side?"

Judge Lewis blasted the legislature, saying Republican political consultants conspired to manipulate the redistricting process.

And that's exactly how Manatee County's Supervisor of Elections says many residents may feel. They lived in a densely-populated and Democratically-represented district in 2010 that became a Republican-represented district in 2012. "They lost representation from Manatee County because they lost their Democrat Representative. Because when that portion was taken away, it was given to Representative Buchanan, who, as everybody knows, is a Republican," says Bennett.

For one Manatee County resident living in the former Democratic district, his primary concern is losing minority representation. "It's actually more of a social issue. I think it limits the ability for minorities to be represented in Congress," says resident Rodney Jones.

The League of Women Voters applauds the ruling, saying in a statement: "Judge Lewis' ruling puts real teeth in the Fair Districts Amendments that were passed so overwhelmingly by Florida voters."

The 12-day trial is the first test of a 2010 Constitutional amendment that says legislators cannot draw up districts to favor incumbents or a political party. But the ruling is not expected to disrupt this year's quickly-approaching elections.

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