Jacksonville Residents and Civil Rights Groups Seek Injunction to Block Jacksonville City Council’s Racially-Gerrymandered Maps
Preliminary injunction motion seeks immediate relief for Jacksonville residents from maps that diminish the voices of Black communities
JACKSONVILLE – TODAY the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida, Harvard Election Law Clinic and Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed for a preliminary injunction on behalf of the Jacksonville NAACP Branch, the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville, the Northeast Chapter of the ACLU of Florida, Florida Rising and 10 individuals to halt implementation of Jacksonville’s racially gerrymandered city council and school board maps.
The Jacksonville residents and civil rights groups are seeking immediate relief for Black communities who have been “packed” into just four city council districts out of 14, and 2 of 7 school board districts, while being stripped from surrounding, now majority-white districts. This created city council and school board maps with artificially large numbers of majority white districts, diminishing the voices of Black communities. The preliminary injunction motion was filed as part of ongoing litigation: Jacksonville Branch of the NAACP vs. City of Jacksonville.
The Motion for a Preliminary Injunction can be found HERE.
“This is about equitable representation for all Jacksonville residents,” said Nicholas Warren, staff attorney with the ACLU of Florida. “Intentionally packing these districts and minimizing the voices of Black voters is clearly depriving them of fair representation and the Jacksonville City Council must be held accountable. Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy and the fundamental right upon which all our civil liberties rest. We will not stop until that right has been restored for all Jacksonville residents.”
“We must immediately stop implementation of these City Council maps that pack Black communities into as few districts as possible,” said Matletha Bennette, senior staff attorney for voting rights with SPLC. “Jacksonville voters deserve maps that provide everyone with an equal voice in how resources are allocated and the city is governed, and equal opportunity to have the needs of their communities represented.”
“Holding the March 2023 City Council elections with maps that unconstitutionally sort voters by race would create barriers to Black residents electing candidates that represent their communities, diminishing their voice in government for years to come,” said Daniel Hessel of the Harvard Election Law Clinic. “That is why we filed for this preliminary injunction: to protect the right of our clients and all Jacksonville residents to have an equal voice in their city government.”
Upon filing the preliminary injunction motion, plaintiffs said:
“These racially gerrymandered maps that diminish Black voices in government must be halted as soon as possible,” said Isaiah Rumlin, president of the Jacksonville NAACP. “We must fight to ensure this racially discriminatory map cannot be used in any election, and that it will be replaced with a map that reflects all of Jacksonville’s communities.”
“The present City Council district map is an assault on the fundamental rights of Black voters,” said Ben Frazier, president of the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville. “This plan is unfair and should be blocked because it dilutes Black voting power."
“Our communities continue to struggle when Jacksonville’s leadership does not take their concerns seriously,” said Michelle Charron Hollie, president of the ACLU of Florida Northeast Chapter. “By packing these maps, Council members from those districts will ignore the needs of Black communities — a problem that could continue for future elections.”
“This attempt, through the city council and school board maps, to diminish the voice of Jacksonville’s Black community cannot be allowed to stand even for a moment,” said Moné Holder, Senior Director of Advocacy & Programs of Florida Rising. “The fundamental right of the Black community and Jacksonville to have their votes matter equally must be upheld, which means this map must not go into effect.”
In March 2022, the Jacksonville City Council passed, and Mayor Lenny Curry signed, new city council maps, redrawing the voting districts for the next decade. In passing these maps, the Council impermissibly packed Black residents into Council Districts 7, 8, 9 and 10. As a result, the Council also ensured an artificially high white population in three adjacent districts—Districts 2, 12 and 14.
The packed districts snake through the City to capture as many Black voters as possible, making their Black populations artificially high. The Black populations of the surrounding districts are simultaneously depressed because they carefully avoid concentrations of Black voters. As a consequence, most of Jacksonville’s Black voters are segregated into just four of fourteen districts, depressing their influence over City Council elections overall.
In response, the ACLU of Florida, Harvard Election Law Clinic and SPLC filed Jacksonville Branch of the NAACP vs. City of Jacksonville on behalf of local activists and voting rights organizations to challenge the city council maps on May 3, 2022. The litigation also challenges the racial gerrymandering of Duval County School Board Districts 4, 5 and 6, which are each made up of two of the challenged City Council districts.