|Are Broward County Blacks being disenfranchised?|
|Thursday, 02 February 2012 12:24|
A coalition of Broward County citizens, the Broward Citizens for Fair Districts, has announced their lawsuit recently against the Broward County Commission over the approved re-districting of the 2011 Broward County voting map. The group argues that the new map is unconstitutional towards Black voters, violating the Federal Voting Rights Act.
Broward Citizens for Fair Districts are joined in their suit by State Senator Christopher Smith, State Representative Perry Thurston, Mayor Eric H. Jones, Jr., the T.J. Reddick Bar Association, and representatives from the Broward Black Elected Officials organization.
But how does the new district map change the way Blacks can vote in Broward County? Are black voters really being disenfranchised? The National Weekly looks at the numbers, and how the Black vote and Black local government representation could change under the controversial district map.
Broward County, in numbers
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Broward County is currently an example of a "minority-majority" voting population, where a jurisdiction has a racial and/or ethnic population less than 50 percent Non-Hispanic White. The minority population of Broward County is at 56 percent. Black Americans make up over a quarter of Broward County's population at 26.7 percent.
In addition, the U.S. census shows that the Black/African-American demographic grew by 40 percent in Broward County over the past decade alone, suggesting that the Black community will retain a substantial demand on Broward County's resources.
Currently, two of nine representatives on the Commission are Black Americans, with Dale Holness in District 9 and Barbara Sharief in District 8. This present ratio of two to nine, at 22 percent, does closely mirror the collective Black population of Broward County.
After the 2010 U.S. census however, the Black population of other districts stands at higher ratios than before. These districts could also potentially vote for more minority representation at the local government level.
It is in these tipping point districts that has sparked the disenfranchisement controversy. Under the new district map, more Black residents have been moved into District 9, while Black voters have been removed from District 1 (currently represented by Commissioner Ilene Lieberman) and District 7 (represented by Commissioner John Rodstrom).
Prior to the approval of the redistricted map, the Black population of District 1 was estimated at 31 percent and at 22 percent in District 7. The final, approved map reduced the Black population in District 1 to 23 percent and District 7 to 20 percent. That map also increased the Black population in District 9 from 71 percent to 86 percent. This jump groups a substantial number of Black voters from other districts, where their numbers could change demographic voting patterns, into a district where Blacks are already overwhelmingly represented.
This tweak of numbers could potentially affect how Blacks are represented. In the County Commission elections of 2004 and 2008, Black candidates lost their bid to represent District 7 by an average of 175 votes. With the new district map however, the chances of a Black representative are concentrated to select districts, despite changes in where Black Americans live in Broward County.
After the 2010 U.S. Census, this new population data required the voting district maps of Florida's cities and counties to be redesigned and adjusted. The Broward County Charter, in charge of redesigning this new map, is responsible for ensuring that these districts numbers are balanced, and that residents have equal representation on the County Commission.
The County will host another public hearing on February 14 to address these concerns before the new maps, and the demographic changes at the district level, are finally authorized.
|Last Updated on Friday, 03 February 2012 14:09|