Federal Judge Rules Against North Florida “Prison Gerrymandering”

In a first-of-its kind decision, a federal judge in Tallahassee has ordered that local voting districts in nearby Jefferson County be redrawn, saying their boundaries are unconstitutional because of a system critics call “prison gerrymandering.”

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker on Friday ruled against the county on a motion for summary judgment, effectively disposing of the case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and the Florida Justice Institute, a nonprofit law group specializing in prisoners’ rights cases.

Walker’s 86-page opinion, announced Monday in an ACLU-FL news release, prohibits Jefferson County from using current districts for county commissioners and school board members. The judge ordered new districts submitted to him by April 4 that comply with state and federal law.

Jefferson County neighbors Leon County, home to Tallahassee, immediately to the east. It had an estimated population of just over 14,000 in 2013, according to Census figures.

Walker also is scheduled to sit on a three-judge panel this Friday to hear argument in a case brought by Democratic U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown against the state’s recently redrawn congressional districts. Brown, a 23-year veteran of Congress, has said her new district violates federal voting laws by cutting down the influence of minority voters.

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