JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A lawsuit filed against the City of Jacksonville and Duval County Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan this week claims a new redistricting plan reduces the impact of the Black vote in minority dominated areas of Jacksonville.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, filed Tuesday, include several organizations, including the Jacksonville branch of the NAACP, the ACLU of Florida Northeast Chapter, the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville Inc. and 10 individual plaintiffs.
The lawsuit alleges that Black voters have been packed into four of the city's 14 Council districts (7, 8, 9 and 10) and therefore the other 10 districts will not have enough Black voices.
Essentially, racial gerrymandering.
The lawsuit says that this ensure that Black voters are segregated into just four districts, lessening their influence over elections.
As well, a press release on the suit says that the Council "ensured an artificially high white population in three adjacent districts," which are District 2, 12 and 14.
"The only interest this plan serves is to protect the current political order and those who benefit from it," Ben Frazier, one of the plaintiffs, said.
“These maps must be redrawn to represent all Jacksonville residents equitably,” said Nicholas Warren, staff attorney with the ACLU of Florida. “The Jacksonville City Council cannot deprive the people of fair representation by intentionally packing these districts and minimizing the voices of Black voters. Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy and the fundamental right upon which all our civil liberties rest. The Council must be held accountable.”
The lawsuit claims that race was the predominant factor motivating the City Council’s work.
"At seemingly every turn, the Council placed race above race-neutral, traditional redistricting criteria," the lawsuit reads. "Race featured centrally at nearly every meeting, with council members and staff twisting the term “communities of interest,” typically used to validly consider social and political communities, into solely a proxy for race."
Andrew Pantazi of The Tributary has covered this issue extensively since the redistricting was first proposed.
Pantazi reports that lawyers with the ACLU of Florida, the Southern Poverty Law Center and Harvard Law School's Election Law Clinic worked on this lawsuit.
He also says this appears to be only the second lawsuit the Election Law Clinic has filed since its founding last year.