ORAL ARGUMENTS CONCLUDE IN PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION HEARING TO BLOCK RACIALLY GERRYMANDERED JACKSONVILLE CITY COUNCIL MAP
Map Packs Black Communities into Just Four Districts, Denying Them Equal Representation and a Fair Voice in Government
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – On September 16, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida (ACLU-FL) and the Harvard Election Law Clinic participated in oral arguments for a preliminary injunction motion to halt use of Jacksonville’s City Council and School Board maps for the 2023 and 2024 elections. The voting rights groups are challenging the new maps that deny Black communities a fair voice in government and fair representation on the City Council and School Board.
The preliminary injunction motion was brought as part of the ongoing litigation: Jacksonville Branch of the NAACP vs. City of Jacksonville, filed on behalf of local organizations including the Jacksonville NAACP Branch, the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville, the Northeast Chapter of the ACLU of Florida, Florida Rising and 10 individual residents. The court will now deliberate on the case.
Voting Rights Organizations advocated for the preliminary injunction motion:
“The attempts by the City Council to pack Black voters into just four districts and deny their fair voice in government is appalling,” said Matletha Bennette, senior staff attorney for Voting Rights with SPLC. “By diminishing Black voting power, the mayor and city council are silencing Jacksonville residents who want to advocate for their communities.”
“Holding the March 2023 City Council elections with maps that unconstitutionally sort voters by race is a harm the Supreme Court has recognized for three decades,” 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 fair representation on their City Council.”
"Black Jacksonville residents deserve the same right to choose their local representation as their white peers," said Nick Warren, staff attorney for ACLU of Florida. "These maps serve no purpose other than to artificially reduce the power of their votes and their voices within their own communities. These maps are blatantly unconstitutional and will have devastating consequences for years to come."
Plaintiffs voiced their hope the maps would be blocked:
“This is modern day segregation, plain and simple,” said Rosemary McCoy, Jacksonville resident. “The government is telling me that because of the color of my skin, I am not allowed to vote with my white neighbors for the issues and people who affect our neighborhood."
“We are here today in the continuing and historic struggle to stand up and fight back against yet another attempt to suppress the power of the Black vote," said Ben Frazier, president of the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville. “This map speaks for itself. One glance tells you it's illegal and unfair.”
“Let’s be clear: These maps diminish the power of Black voters and they are unjust,” said Moné Holder, Senior Director of Advocacy & Programs of Florida Rising. “These kinds of decisions don’t just occur in a vacuum. This is systemic oppression. This is segregation. This is how it begins. And if we don’t right this wrong now, the harm currently being inflicted on Black voters and their communities in Jacksonville will have a lasting impact for years to come.”
In March 2022, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry signed into law new City Council and School Board maps, redrawing the voting districts for the next decade. The City Council drew district lines that intentionally packed Black residents into Council Districts 7, 8, 9 and 10. The map also ensures that adjacent Districts 2, 12 and 14 have artificially large white populations.
The new gerrymandered City Council map packs Black voters into only four supermajority Black districts out of the total 14 single-member districts in the city. This unnecessarily segregates the community of Jacksonville along racial lines and artificially diminishes the power of Black voters compared to other voters in the city.
In response, the ACLU of Florida, Harvard Election Law Clinic and the SPLC filed a case — Jacksonville Branch of the NAACP vs. City of Jacksonville — on May 3, 2022, on behalf of local activists and voting rights organizations to challenge the City Council map. The litigation also challenges the racial gerrymandering of Duval County School Board Districts 4, 5 and 6, which are based on the City Council Districts.
On July 22, the plaintiffs filed a preliminary injunction motion to halt the use of the maps ahead of the 2023 elections.