JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There’s another turn in the legal fight over Jacksonville’s new city council and school board districts.
City attorneys have now asked a federal appeals court to put a recent federal judge’s decision on hold. And if the appeals court grants that request, it could make things even more complicated for the Duval County Supervisor of Elections Office, which is already overwhelmed because of changes in maps.
Last week, the judge ruled against the Jacksonville City Council’s redistricting plan and said the city should use a map proposed by civil rights groups, including the Jacksonville Branch of the NAACP.
🔒 INSIDER INTERACTIVE MAP: See how Jacksonville’s council districts would change under new map
Now, the city is asking the appeals court to allow it to use the map the council approved for the city elections in the spring. The motion for stay was filed Tuesday.
This is all causing some turmoil for the election because the Duval County Supervisor of Elections Office has to sort out the districts so voters will know who they can vote for and where and because deadlines are approaching for candidates.
Getting ready for an election is not an easy task for Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan, who said it’s been a year he won’t forget.
“We’ve been slammed from the beginning of the year, seriously,” Hogan told News4JAX on Wednesday.
Because of redistricting, new maps of boundary lines had to be redrawn, but the court battle has made that harder. The election staff has been handed several maps and has been working since the summer to match them to voters and precincts.
“That’s a lot of work, so we’ve already got that set up, and then all of a sudden, we go to another map, and so we have to change everything again,” Hogan said. “So what the public doesn’t see is all the work that’s in the background.”
Right now, there is confusion for candidates and voters to even know what district they are in or who they will be voting for. And deadlines are looming — candidates will start qualifying next month for the city election in March.
Hogan said that they are following the process, but it’s getting harder to get it done
“It’s a lot of information that the public is going to be deprived because there’s not enough time to get to them in this election when we’re waiting this long to get the process ready.
For example, there will have to be new voter identification cards sent to 100,000 to 200,000 people. Precinct names and even sites could change. And there are ballots to be printed and sample and vote-by-mail ballots to be sent out for the election.
There’s no word on when the federal judges will take up the motion for stay.
City asks court to waive residency requirement for upcoming city elections
After speaking with Hogan, News4JAX learned that the city filed a motion Wednesday with the federal court in Jacksonville, asking that the residency requirement in the city charter be waived for the upcoming election.
Under the charter, a candidate must have resided in the district for at least 183 days (about six months) in order to qualify as a candidate for a city council seat.
Instead, they just want residency to be valid as of the date of qualification.
The city offers two reasons why it should be waived: One, that with the redrawn districts, some candidates may no longer live in the district they hoped to represent, and others may be in a district that is now numbered differently. Two, they argue that technically, none of these districts will have existed for 183 days, so nobody could have lived in the district for the required time.
They want this waiver only for the 2023 city elections.
The city also says this waiver would be needed regardless of how the appeal over the map turns out because neither map will have been around for very long.
The motion also says that city attorneys have talked with attorneys for the plaintiffs and that they do not oppose this motion.
The NAACP and other plaintiffs filed its response to the request, saying “they do not oppose waiving the residency requirement only to the extent it applies to candidates running for the fourteen districted Council seats. Waiving the requirement that candidates for the five at-large seats live in their respective at-large residency areas would not be necessary since the at-large residency area map is not at issue in this case. Plaintiffs respectfully suggest, therefore, that any order granting Defendants’ motion only apply to candidates for the fourteen districted seats.”