Voting Rights Groups Reach Settlement with Jacksonville City Council, Ensuring Fairer Maps for Next Twelve Years
Settlement Ensures Fairer Maps from 2023 Elections Will Stay in Place Until Next Redistricting Cycle
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Today, local voting rights groups, Jacksonville residents and the Jacksonville City Council agreed to continue using maps ordered by a federal court that provide fair representation to Black communities through the next redistricting cycle after the 2030 Census. The court ordered the maps to be redrawn for the 2023 city council elections after the Jacksonville City Council twice failed to draw fair maps for the city.
This largely settles the case Jacksonville Branch of the NAACP vs. City of Jacksonville, which challenged the Jacksonville City Council for drawing maps that “packed” together Black communities and denied them a fair voice in local government. The case was filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), American Civil Liberties Union of Florida (ACLU-FL) and the Harvard Election Law Center 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.
“Today’s settlement proves that when we stand together as a community, we can overcome anyone who tries to silence our voice,” said Rosemary McCoy, Jacksonville resident. “Now we have to use that voice to advocate for fair investment and fair treatment for our communities.”
“We are proud of everyone in the community who stood together to strike down maps that packed Black communities together and replaced them with maps that provide us with a fair voice,” said Moné Holder, Senior Director of Advocacy & Programs of Florida Rising. “We look forward to continuing our grassroots advocacy to demand an equitable investment in infrastructure, equitable access to education and to ensure we always have a fair voice in our City Council.”
“We are glad that Black communities will have an equal chance to bring their needs before the council and have our voice heard in city government,” said Isaiah Rumlin, president of the Jacksonville Branch of the NAACP. “We remain dedicated to ensuring that the needs of the Black community are met and that maps which respect our voice will continue to be used for every election to come.”
“The maps provided by today’s settlement will help our advocacy for Black communities in Jacksonville by ensuring we have a fair voice to bring their needs before the City Council,” said Ben Frazier, president of the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville “But our struggle doesn’t stop here: we must ensure that all future maps also provide fair representation to Black residents so we can continue advocating for our communities in a City Council that’s willing to listen to us.”
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 gerrymandered district lines that intentionally packed Black residents into only four districts out of the 14 total districts in the city: 7, 8, 9 and 10. This unnecessarily segregated the community of Jacksonville along racial lines and ensured that adjacent Districts 2, 12 and 14 had artificially large white populations.
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 challenged the racial gerrymandering of Duval County School Board Districts 4, 5 and 6, which are based on the city council districts.
“Today’s settlement ensures a fair voice for Black Jacksonville residents for years to come and we hope it represents the beginning of a new era in Jacksonville,” said Matletha Bennette, senior staff attorney for voting rights with the SPLC. “We hope this settlement leads to fairer investments in Black communities, better attention to the needs of the whole city and continued progress towards a city government that works for all its residents.”
Daniel Hessel, Attorney and Clinical Instructor at Harvard Law School’s Election Law Clinic said: “This settlement cements Plaintiffs’ victories in court. The plaintiff-drawn map that the court ordered increases Black political power in Jacksonville for the first time in decades and fairly represents the city's communities and neighborhoods.”
“Today’s settlement is the result of the tireless efforts of Black voters who have fought hard to secure fairer representation for the Jacksonville community,” said Nicholas Warren, staff attorney for the ACLU of Florida. “It’s a new day for Jaxsons who have achieved a fair opportunity to influence our democracy. We will continue to safeguard the rights of voters in Jacksonville and hold the City Council accountable.”
On July 22, the plaintiffs filed a preliminary injunction motion to halt the use of the maps ahead of the 2023 elections. The court granted that preliminary injunction on October 12, and the city council was required to draw and implement new maps that provide fair representation to the Black community in Jacksonville. When the city council failed to draw and implement fairer maps, the court ordered fairer maps drawn by the voting rights organizations involved in the case be used for the 2023 elections. Today, the voting rights organizations, Jacksonville residents, and the Jacksonville City Council reached a settlement to ensure those maps would be used until the next redistricting cycle after 2030.