JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Change is coming to the maps used to elect local lawmakers, including the Jacksonville City Council, but some analysts say they’re worried the new district lines could shut out Black voters.
They may just look like lines on a page, but City Council district maps represent your voice at City Hall.
“If you have your neighbor neighborhood, split up among a bunch of different council members, it can be hard to get any one council member to pay attention to what's happening in your, you know, in your surrounding neighborhood," Andrew Pantazi said.
Former Florida Times-Union reporter Andrew Pantazi says the city’s 14 districts impact how your streets are policed and cleaned. He’s been examining the proposed map for his online publication The Tributary and says the biggest changes would be to districts 8 and 7.
Both are urban districts where more than 60% of voters are Black, but the new lines could dilute that voting power.
“They're really only making a huge impact in four out of 14 neighborhood districts. And in the remaining districts, they have a lot less voting power," Pantazi said.
Pantazi says while state congressional maps are analyzed for impacts on minority voters, that was not done in Jacksonville.
“You need to do a sort of analysis that says, hey, if we don't intentionally draw these types of districts, these voters won't be able to elect candidates of their choice. They never did that analysis in the first place," Pantazi said.
Joyce Morgan, city council member representing districts one, says she has heard concerns about possible diluting of the Black vote. She wasn't on the re-redistricting committee but spoke up and stopped proposed changes to her district during the review process. She believes the new lines are based on population and are designed to be fair.
"It's one thing for us to say that we're being disenfranchised. But it's another thing to come up with a map that they feel is is better suited for these districts. It's a tough job," Joyce Morgan, City council member representing District, said.
Anyone is welcome and encouraged to give input on the proposed re-redistricting maps. The council will hold a series Public Hearings, the first will be held Thursday, January 27, 2022, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Ed White High School auditorium, located at 1700 Old Middleburg Road in Jacksonville. Additional meetings are as follow:
- February 3, 2022 – Rules Committee public hearing, Atlantic Coast High School, 9735 R.G. Skinner Parkway, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m.
- February 10, 2022 – Rules Committee public hearing, First Coast High School, 590 Duval Station Road, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m.
- February 17, 2022 – Rules Committee public hearing, William Raines High School, 3663 Raines Avenue, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m.