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Wednesday, July 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Florida Accused of Racial Gerrymander

ORLANDO (CN) - Florida racially gerrymandered a congressional district to pack it with African-American voters, drawing it in the precise way the state Supreme Court defined as "constitutionally suspect," a voter claims in Federal Court.

William Everett Warinner sued Secretary of State Ken Detzner and Attorney General Pam Bondi, claiming they gerrymandered District 5 to reduce black voting strength in other districts.

"Congressional District 5 winds a serpentine route from North Florida to Central Florida, reaching out to capture pockets of African-American voters along the way," the lawsuit states. "On visual inspection, it exhibits all of the features that the Florida Supreme Court has referred to as 'constitutionally suspect and often indicative of racial and partisan gerrymandering,' including 'fingerlike extensions,' 'narrow and bizarrely shaped tentacles,' and 'hooklike shape[s]."

Warinner claims the gerrymander violates the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

The district reaches across six city lines and eight counties, packing in pockets of black voters.

"Ample evidence, including the unjustifiable concentration of African-American voters in Congressional District 5, the bizarre shape of Congressional District 5 and the failure of Congressional District 5 to utilize existing political and geographical boundaries, shows that race played a predominant role in the drawing of Congressional District 5," Warinner states in his complaint.

Warinner also has filed a constitutional challenge in state court but is concerned it won't be resolved in time for next year's congressional elections.

In November 2010, Florida voters voted to amend Florida's constitution to include a provision that requires fair and neutral standards be used when drawing congressional districts.

Warinner claims the Florida Senate did not conduct a proper analysis and did not consider minority voting rights when making its congressional plan.

He wants the gerrymander declared unconstitutional, and an injunction barring Florida from holding elections based on it is drawn.

He is represented by Robert Telfer, with Messer Caparello, in Tallahassee.

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