TALLAHASSEE -- A coalition of voting groups sent a warning shot to Florida lawmakers Friday, claiming their proposal for revising Miami-Dade's most competitive congressional district appears to have been designed to boost the chances of freshman Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo.
In a letter to House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner, the League of Women Voters and Common Cause of Florida suggested that shifting 35,000 black voters from Congressional District 26 into Congressional District 27, has a "partisan effect" that violates the anti-gerrymandering rules of the Florida Constitution.
The letter by League of Women Voters President Pamela Goodman and Common Cause Chairman Peter Butzin didn't name Curbelo but signaled out his District 26. Curbelo's re-election bid is being challenged by Democrat Annette Taddeo in 2016.
"This move obviously undermines both the letter and spirit of the Fair Districts Amendments, violates the prohibition of intentional partisanship and incumbent protection and constitutes a failure to follow the Florida Supreme Court's holding," Goodman and Butzin wrote. "We are confident you can find an alternative."
The two groups successfully sued the Legislature claiming the congressional redistricting plan violated the Fair District amendments. The court ordered legislators back to the drawing board in July after it concluded that they had allowed partisan political operatives to "taint" the process by influencing the final maps in a way that was intended to strengthen Republican performance.
The court also ordered specific changes to eight districts, including a mandate not to split the city of Homestead. The proposal that emerged from the Legislature keeps Homestead intact in District 26 by shifting voters into District 27, held by Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
The voter groups claim the change "shifts predominantly African-American communities in Richmond Heights, Palmetto Estates, and West Perrine into CD 27," effectively "trading about 35,000 people" with a black voting age population of 52.3 percent from Homestead.