Civil rights groups file lawsuit challenging Jacksonville City Council redistricting map

JACKSONVILLE, Florida. – Civil rights groups have filed a lawsuit asking the Jacksonville City Council to “start over” on the recently approved boundary lines.

The redistricting process, which takes place every 10 years, has been criticized by the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville. What is controversial for these groups was almost unanimously approved by the council.

The entire Jacksonville City Council meets every other Tuesday — 19 elected members who run the affairs of Duval County, including redrawing district lines based on census results once a decade.

Four of the districts have a large black population. The rest is strongly white.

“Jacksonville is a growing and diverse city,” said Ben Frazier, president of the Northside Coalition. “The 2020 census showed that just over half of the inhabitants are racial or ethnic minorities. And that’s what a lot of people are starting to worry about.

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The lawsuit claims that the districts are unnecessarily “filled in” and have not changed significantly after the latest census results.

“We’ve been underserved, literally for generations, and it’s time for that to change, and that’s one of the ways we can change it,” Frazier said.

Kent Justice: “Seven of the 19 members of the city council, so that’s about the percentage you just talked about in terms of the ratio between the races. Why isn’t it good enough? Or why doesn’t that allow the black voice to be heard when it comes to governing in the city of Jacksonville?

Are you suggesting, for example, that because we have seven black city council members, that’s enough? I suggest No,” Frazier replied. “What we need are good councilors who are going to work in everyone’s best interests and at the moment I don’t see that happening.”

RELATED: 🔒 Insider Interactive: Find out how Jacksonville City Council districts will change

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Councilman Rory Diamond voted against the maps during the redrawing. He is a Republican and he said the process was designed to maintain the status quo and protect incumbents.

Councilman Brenda Priestly Jackson is a black attorney who said during the debate on the issue that she strongly supports keeping Districts 7, 8, 9 and 10 as districts where black voters can elect their preferred candidates.

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