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Federal judge hears arguments over alleged racially gerrymandered redistricting maps in Jacksonville

Fourteen plaintiffs are suing the city and Duval County supervisor of elections over the new redistricting map.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A federal judge did not make a decision Friday on whether or not to halt the implementation of Jacksonville's new redistricting map.

Fourteen plaintiffs, including advocacy groups and Jacksonville voters, are suing the city and Duval County supervisor of elections over the map. They claim it was racially gerrymandered. 

At a briefing today held by the American civil liberties’ union who are plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit, some Jacksonville residents shared concerns saying the maps are racially gerrymandered. 

“This is modern day segregation. Plain and simple. The government is trying to tell me and those just like me because of the color of my skin that I am not allowed to vote with white neighbors," said Rosemary McCoy a Jacksonville resident. 

Navy veteran, Elgin Foreman, has lived in Jacksonville for a little over 40 years. He says the new district maps created by the city dilute the black vote.

“It’s a form of in my view, political sterilization. It limits the number of votes that can be placed out into the concern of the overall black community," said Foreman. 

Foreman says the maps will compress black influence into four council district 7, 8, 9, or 10. All are predominantly black.

“It’s been since 1965 that the voters rights act was passed so I find no reason, no logical reason and no political reason to continue to shrink the voter map. It only benefits those who are trying to get rid of you," said Foreman.

The lawsuit claims the city council violated the 14th amendment, which prohibits the unnecessary centering of race in redistricting decisions. The lawsuit alleges the city council packed Black voters into four districts, reducing their voting power. Those districts are seven, eight, nine and ten. There are 14 districts total.

That lawsuit is going to trial in 2023. Ahead of that trial, U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard will decide whether to immediately halt the implementation of the map or not.

Defense attorneys for the city argue race was not the predominant factor when the new redistricting lines were drawn. The defense attorney says when city councilmembers met to redraw the district lines, they started with the existing lines from 2011, tried to respect communities of interest, protect incumbents, minimize river crossings and use total population numbers.

The judge says the points of starting with existing lines and respecting communities of interest "seem to boil down to race." There were also questions over racial gerrymandering with the 2011 map.

For the plaintiffs, the judge says she is concerned with the timeline for the injunction. She points out the lawsuit was filed in March and the preliminary injunction was not filed until the end of July.

The concern is changing the redistricting lines causing problems for candidates and confusing voters ahead of the next election.

The judge may bring attorneys back for another hearing September 29.


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