JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Civil and voting rights groups that sued the City of Jacksonville over new city council and school board maps in an effort to increase Black voting power may end up with a new map that does exactly the opposite.
Councilmembers have until next Tuesday to approve a new map.
There are two maps currently in play to replace district lines struck down by a judge in October.
That ruling found the old map unconstitutionally packed Black voters into four Black-majority districts.
“From a simple numbers matter, all these maps have three districts where Blacks are a majority of the voting age population,” said Dr. Doug Johnson, President of the National Demographics Corporation at Wednesday’s council meeting.
The civil and voting rights groups that sued the city proposed its own map, which they dubbed the ‘Unity’ map.
The groups claim it keeps four majority Black districts and creates a fifth where Black voters have an opportunity to elect a candidate of their choosing, but it was rejected by the council.
Ben Frazier heads the Northside Coalition, which was named as a plaintiff in the suit challenging the original city map.
He argued the original goal to increase Black voting power has been turned on its head.
“And we will not stand idly by while this city council attempts to reduce the clout, power and influence of Black voters in Duval County,” said Frazier.
But the council’s maps are ripe for legal challenge.
The Voting Rights Act prohibits the reduction of minority voting power in minority access districts.
By cutting out one majority Black district, it’s possible the judge once again sends the council back to the drawing board.
Councilmember Randy DeFoor (R-District-14) argued the original map should have never been struck down in the first place.
“I don’t think it’s good for any of us quite frankly, but we are where we are,” said DeFoor.
Council members will still be able to offer amendments until Friday, when the committee plans to adopt its final map.
In the end, the judge will have the final say on which map stands.