The news late yesterday that the 2012 Congressional Districts had been invalidated drew me back to 1996, when we had a similar happening with Congressional Districts. Ironically, the district that caused the problems then as it has now is Corrine Brown’s seat, then numbered the third, now numbered the fifth. Brown’s original district in 1992 had stretched from Ocala to Gainesville Jacksonville to Palatka to Daytona Beach to Sanford to Orlando. It was perhaps the most obscene district in the country other than infamous I-85/ I-40 district in North Carolina that was held by Mel Watt.
The decision of the Bush Justice Department to enforce the Voting Rights Act in way that pushed African-American representation in Congress upwards was a strictly political way of hurting southern white Democrats by using race as an issue. By forcing the drawing of African-American districts, several white Democrats here in Florida and throughout the southeast ended up in more Republican seats and eventually lost, mostly in 1994 but several in 1992 and 1996.
The diagram of the FL-3 district from 1992 is below.
Andy Johnson, who is now a prominent radio host in Jacksonville challenged this district and ultimately won in court. This set off a frenzy as a number of districts around it had to be redrawn. Republicans controlled the Florida Senate but Democrats controlled the Florida House. So what ended up happening was a map that made the 3rd look more compact and made the districts around it stronger for incumbents. Karen Thurman’s 5th became more Democratic, John Mica’s 7th became slightly more Republican due to some white Democratic voters in Volusia County being thrown into the Brown district (which was a shame because the Democrats in George Stuart had a superstar candidate in the race). Cliff Stearns 6th and Bill McCollum’s 8th became slightly more Democratic which wasn’t an issue in 1996 but almost became catastrophic for the GOP in 2000 when Linda Chapin almost won the seat for the Democrats.
The redrawn 3rd that came out of the 1996 Legislative Session is below.