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Advocates pressure Jacksonville on redistricting

Community groups proposed this "Unity Map."
ACLU Florida
Community groups proposed this "Unity Map."

With time running out, pressure is mounting on Jacksonville City Council to create new council maps that advocates say will more fairly represent the city's sizable Black population.

A federal judge this month struck down the city's latest maps as racial gerrymandering. U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales ruled that the maps diluted Black voting power by packing Black voters into four of 14 districts. She gave the city until Nov. 8 to come up with an alternative.

The city is hustling to draw new maps but is appealing the judge's ruling at the same time — a dual track that could cost $1 million in attorney's fees.

On Wednesday, the Duval County Democratic Party called on City Council to drop the appeal and "proceed with a fair and equitable redistricting process."

"City Council now has a unique opportunity to bring our community together and be fiscally prudent," Vice Chair Jennifer Cowart said in a written statement. "If the City Council chooses to further divide our community with its costly strategy to defend racially gerrymandered maps, at taxpayers' expense, then they are choosing to protect incumbency over fair representation."

Ten voters and four civil rights organizations sued over the maps, saying they violated the 14th Amendment with the intent of protecting incumbent council members and limiting minority representation.

The judge agreed and said the history of Jacksonville’s redistricting "“unabashedly points to racial gerrymandering.”

Plaintiffs in the case — including the NAACP, the ACLU, the Northside Coalition — released their own redistricting proposal on Tuesday. They called it a "Unity Map."

The groups said that under their map:

  • Districts are logical and compact, as the City Charter requires.
  • Lines respect neighborhoods, follow major geographic boundaries, and preserve genuine communities of interest.
  • Racial gerrymandering is undone while complying with the Voting Rights Act and protecting representation.

City Council will meet Tuesday night and take comments from the public. The public also can submit comments to

Here are the redistricting meetings scheduled next week:

  • Tuesday, Nov. 1, noon-1:30 p.m., City Hall Council Chamber — Redistricting Committee meeting.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 2, noon-1:30 p.m., City Hall Council Chamber — Redistricting Committee meeting.
  • Thursday, Nov. 3, noon-1:30 p.m., City Hall Council Chamber — Redistricting Committee meeting.
  • Thursday, Nov. 3, evening (time/location TBA) — Redistricting town hall meeting.
  • Friday, Nov. 4, 9 a.m., City Hall Council Chamber — City Council meeting for final vote on map.
Randy comes to Jacksonville from the South Florida Sun Sentinel, where, as metro editor, he led investigative coverage of the Parkland school shooting that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for public service. He has spent more than 40 years in reporting and editing positions in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio and Florida. You can reach Randy at or on Twitter, @rroguski.