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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Aug. 25, 201112:00 PM EST

Corrine Brown's district at center of 'Fair Districts' storm


As lawmakers cross the state to gather public input for how to draw Florida’s political lines in the once-a-decade redistricting process, they are encountering a public that wants the Legislature to follow the new standards passed by the public in the 2010 elections.

The fault lines that run through some areas of the state are proving that complying with the “Fair Districts” amendments, which are aimed at curbing partisan gerrymandering, might prove to be a difficult balance.

Competing interests are at play, from the political goals of elected officials to the racial politics that still divide some communities.

At the center of the storm is the 3rd Congressional District, a seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, a Democrat from Jacksonville.

Brown’s district stretches from her hometown in the north to Orlando in the south, winding through nine counties in the process.

“I got to say it is probably the most popular district not just in Florida, but the entire country,” Brown quipped.

Drawn following a legal battle in the 1990s, and as part of an alliance between African-American Democrats and Republicans eager to reap the gains of concentrating black votes into majority-minority districts, the 3rd District has become a fixture in the debate over how to redraw the lines.

Since it was reconfigured to favor a candidate supported by black voters — who make up 48 percent of the district’s voting-age population, according to the 2010 Census — Brown is the only person who has represented the district.

For opponents, the 3rd is the example of everything wrong with the redistricting process, an extreme gerrymander aimed at carving out a special district that favors a single politician. For supporters, it represents a hard-fought victory in the battle over equal rights in Florida.

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