The city of Jacksonville, Florida, in March 2022 adopted racially gerrymandered district voting maps that dilute the voting power of Black residents in city council and school board elections.
On behalf of four civil rights organizations and 10 individuals, the Southern Poverty Law Center and its co-counsel filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the new maps unconstitutionally pack Black voters into four city council districts and two school board districts, diminishing their ability to influence elections in adjacent districts.
The lawsuit challenges the maps as illegal under the 14th Amendment as well as the city’s charter, which requires districts to be logical and compact.
In passing these maps, the Jacksonville City Council impermissibly concentrated Black residents into council districts 7, 8, 9 and 10. As a result, the council ensured a 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 the maps carefully avoid concentrations of Black voters. As a consequence, most of Jacksonville’s Black voters are segregated into just four of 14 districts, depressing their influence over city council elections overall.
In October 2022, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida found the Jacksonville City Council’s maps had likely racially gerrymandered the city by “packing” together Black communities. The court gave the council an opportunity to redraw the maps in a constitutional way.
However, the council drew maps that continued to unfairly diminish the voices of Black communities. As a result, the plaintiffs proposed fairer alternatives. On Dec. 19, 2022, the court rejected the council’s alternative map in favor of the plaintiffs’ map.
On May 9, 2023, local voting rights groups, Jacksonville residents and the Jacksonville City Council agreed to use the maps ordered by a federal court until the next redistricting cycle, which occurs after the 2030 census. The court approved a settlement agreement on May 30, 2023, officially concluding the case.
The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida/Jacksonville Division on behalf of the Jacksonville NAACP Branch, the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville, the Northeast Chapter of the ACLU of Florida and Florida Rising.