Jacksonville racial gerrymandering suit

I wanted to flag this interesting racial gerrymandering suit that Harvard Law School’s Election Law Clinic filed yesterday, in collaboration with the ACLU of Florida and the Southern Poverty Law Center. The suit alleges that Black voters were unconstitutionally packed into four Jacksonville City Council districts — and equally unlawfully removed from three adjacent districts. I’ll have more to say about this suit as it unfolds. For now, the complaint is here, and this is the Election Law Clinic’s summary of the case:

Following the 2020 Census, the Jacksonville City Council enacted new district plans, redrawing the voting districts for the next decade. In passing these maps, the Council impermissibly packed Black residents into four Council Districts. As a result, the Council also ensured an artificially high white population in three adjacent districts. 

The Council has no reason to do this that survives legal scrutiny. It was unnecessary for Voting Rights Act compliance, and the Council made no efforts to analyze the level of Black population needed for Black voters to have the opportunity to elect their candidates of choice. Instead, the Council set uninformed racial targets and subordinated traditional redistricting criteria to improper racial considerations. 

This racial gerrymandering violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit also challenges the maps as illegal under the City Charter, which requires districts to be logical and compact. 

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 they carefully avoid concentrations of Black voters. As a consequence, most of Jacksonville’s Black voters are segregated into just four of fourteen districts, depressing their influence over City Council elections overall. 

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