Jacksonville City Council decides to appeal judge’s decision on voting maps

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville City Council has decided to challenge a federal court judge’s ruling that would have changed the face of Jacksonville’s political landscape.

The decision was made by council members who met privately to discuss their plan on whether to fight or accept the judge’s decision.

“The City Council followed the directives set out by our legal counsel throughout this process and we recently presented the court with the requested remedial map. Based on comments from my colleagues this afternoon, we will be seeking appellate review of the trial courts decision. We will refer further comment on this matter to the Office of General Counsel,” Jacksonville City Council President Terrance Freeman said in a statement.

According to sources, there was not a vote but there was a general consensus to appeal. That was a surprise to many people, that this is the direction the city council is going because of the upcoming election.

Thursday’s decision comes two days after Freeman told News4JAX he doesn’t want the fight to linger on.

But the decision to appeal will likely result in a prolonged court battle and a possible stay that could keep voting maps from 2015 in place for the upcoming 2023 election.

“More so than anything, I think it is delaying a process and it’s adding to a little bit of confusion,” Freeman told News4JAX after the decision.

And getting ready for an election is no easy process. There are deadlines. For example, in 22 days local candidates have to qualify to run.

Voters also need to be notified of what district they will be in and what races they will be eligible to vote for.

This year that deadline is fast approaching and there is still no word on exactly what boundaries will be used.

The judge decided against a map approved by the city council and instead selected a map submitted by civil rights groups that will divide up the council boundaries opening up traditionally Black districts.

In October, the judge ruled that the city used race, an unconstitutional method, to draw the new lines and ordered the city council to go back to the drawing board. The city council approved a new map in November and sent it to the judge for approval after its first try was rejected.

But when Judge Marcia Morales Howard issued her ruling on Duval County’s boundary maps for city council and school board members Monday evening, she sided with the Jacksonville Branch of the NAACP and other civil rights groups who filed their objections to the city’s remedial maps and proposed three maps of their own. Morales Howard said one of the three maps, dubbed Plan 3, was “an appropriate interim remedial plan, such that there is no need for the Court to independently craft a new plan at this time.”

MORE: City expert disputes claim that race was the main factor in how new districts were drawn

“The Court is also satisfied that Plan 3 does not violate any other constitutional or statutory requirement,” she continues in the order.

The plaintiffs say the map for Plan 3 “cures the most egregious violations, by not stripping Black residents from District 14 and not packing them into other districts.”

About the Author:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.