Tampa Bay residents claim state Senate districts ‘suppress Black voters’ in new lawsuit

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St. Petersburg, Florida
St. Pete downtown waterfront, as seen from the Cross Bay Ferry. By Seán Kinane/WMNF News

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A new lawsuit says the map of Florida Senate districts violates the Florida constitution and federal Voting Rights Act.  Tampa and St. Pete residents worry the map packs Black voters in a single Tampa Bay district.

The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU of Florida and the Civil Rights & Racial Justice Clinic at New York University School of Law. It was filed on behalf of five Tampa Bay residents.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Tampa, alleges that the Legislature packed Black voters into District 16, connecting disconnected parts of Tampa and St. Petersburg.

They claim that this was to make sure that the neighboring district, District 18 has a low number of Black voters. The lawsuit says district lines carefully avoided neighborhoods with Black residents.

Jarvis El-Amin is a community organizer and plaintiff in the case.

“What they’re doing is they’re diluting the black vote, by stacking all the blacks in one district.”

District 18 includes parts of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County barrier islands. But it excludes the historically black area of South St Petersburg. That area is in District 16, which stretches across the bay to Hillsborough County, all the way up to Temple Terrace.

“Your vote is your voice, and your vote is your power, and we want to make a difference because we want to make sure we have proper representation so that our issues and concerns can be addressed in the appropriate manner.”

Read the full complaint here. 

Florida Senate District 16 // Credit flsenate.gov 4/10/24
Florida Senate District 16 // Credit flsenate.gov 4/10/24

 

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