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Lawsuit claims Jacksonville district maps take away Black voice

The suit claims the new map for the Jacksonville city council districts, which is also used in school board races, packs minority voters in northern districts.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Local civil rights groups and voting rights activists are challenging new district maps, saying, in a lawsuit, that it limits the voice of Black and brown voters.

Black voters say it’s about having a voice.

There’s infrastructure issues, flooding issues, there’s affordable housing… These are issues that we are concerned with… so basically when you stack us, you drown out our voices," Rosemary McCoy, a plaintiff on the lawsuit and a resident of District 9 and School Board District 5, said. 

Mcoy is one of 10 residents and multiple civil rights groups suing the City of Jacksonville and Duval County Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan.

They say the new map for the Jacksonville city council districts, which is also used in school board races, packs minority voters in northern districts 7, 8, 9 and 10. Essentially stripping "Black voters from three adjacent districts—Districts 2, 12, and 14—ensuring that these districts had artificially high white populations.”

The suit says city council members put “race above other considerations” and that those northern districts have inconsistent shapes and fractured neighborhood boundaries compared to other districts.

“Instead of spreading us out properly, they want to stack us. And stacking is, for me because of my background, it reminds me of when they stacked us on the slave ships," McCoy said.

The map was adopted by City Council in March in a 17 to 1 vote. 

RELATED: 'An attack on Black representation': A motorcade is traveling North Florida to protest redistricting map

Council member Aaron Bowman, who was chair of the redistricting committee, says the new map was created with input from over 20 public meetings.

Bowman maintains that the map basically keeps the existing balance of power in each district in terms of party registration. He says changes reflect population size.

“We worked about four to five months putting the maps together and having all that done in the public… I feel very comfortable I would never file legislation that ultimately got passed if I did not have complete confidence," Bowman said.

“Plenty of ample opportunity to reach out to your council members and express your concern, I’m sorry it resulted in a lawsuit, but I feel very comfortable when we filed it," Brown said.

 The plaintiffs in this case are asking a federal judge to find the new maps in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and prevent any elections in the challenged districts.

We reached out to Duval County Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan, he says his team has not yet been served the lawsuit and declined to comment at this time. We reached out to the city and have not received a response yet.

RELATED: Lawsuit claims North Florida redistricting map was established based on race

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