In a private meeting of Florida Republicans, 11th District State Representative Janet Adkins suggested a way to gerrymander Florida’s Congressional Districts in order to oust African-American Democrat Representative Corrinne Brown (FL-5). Adkins’ plan was to pack Brown’s district with African-American prisoners who would be counted as residents of the district, but who would be unable to vote.
POLITICO Florida obtained audio of Adkins’ comments. Adkins had tried to clear reporters from the room, before making her controversial remarks. Adkins told her Republican colleagues:
You draw [Brown’s seat] in such a fashion so perhaps, a majority, or maybe not a majority, but a number of them will live in the prisons, thereby not being able to vote.
She specifically directed her strategy to Danny Norton, a state committeeman from Baker County, which has a large prison population. She told Norton:
You can actually, Danny, you — you can be the person that will help get rid of Corrine Brown.
The Voting Rights Act provides legal reasons for drawing majority minority districts. Adkins’ Machiavellian plan would circumvent the spirit of the act, by packing African-Americans into the district so that they would count towards determining the district’s demographics, without counting towards actual votes in the district.
Adkins does not serve on the house redistricting committee. However, there is no question that her comments were intended to encourage GOP representatives who do serve on the committee to manipulate the district lines in order to dilute the power of black voters and to undermine Brown’s chances for re-election.
The fact that she tried to deliver the comments without reporters present revealed her awareness that what she was suggesting was unethical. The Republicans have little interest in preserving the democratic process, and are merely interest in gaming the system to find a way to win. While gerrymandering is not exclusively a Republican tactic, the GOP has become especially deceitful in using gerrymandering as a way to increase their political power.