Judge Marcia Howard selected a remedial council district map drawn by the plaintiffs in the case, rejecting the map submitted by the city. (U.S. District Court, Middle District Of Florida)

In an order Monday evening, U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Howard opted in favor of a interim map drawn by the plaintiffs in a case that saw the city’s original redistricting map struck down for racial gerrymandering.

“Judge Howard recognized that the Council’s interim plan failed to cure the racial gerrymander,” Daniel Hessel, a lawyer with the Harvard Election Law Clinic and litigator for the plaintiffs, said after the ruling Monday. “We’re grateful that she ordered a map that likely ends the decades-long race-based sorting of voters.”

Howard rejected the remedial map submitted by the city, writing in her order that it did not fix the issues that existed in the original map.

Instead, she chose a map submitted by the Jacksonville branch of the NAACP, the ACLU, Florida Rising, the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville and 10 Jacksonville residents, along with assistance from the Harvard Election Law Clinic.

The plaintiffs’ map corrected the seven districts struck down in Howard’s original ruling while leaving the other seven districts unchanged from how the city drew them.

In a statement after the ruling, City Council President Terrance Freeman said he was “confident in the work done by our City Council to craft a constitutional map.”

“We are committed to following the law and we will get guidance from our City’s attorneys to make decisions on next steps,” he said.

District 13 Councilman Rory Diamond, who served as a leader on the council’s redistricting committee, tweeted the city “won’t be using the Plaintiffs’ map” and vowed to support an appeal.

The Duval County Democratic Party applauded the judge’s decision.

“For over a year, Duval Dems have advocated for fair city council maps that protect the people’s right to have a voice in their local government,” Chairman Daniel Henry said in a statement. “Today’s ruling not only reaffirms this notion but blocks 50 years of racial gerrymandering in Jacksonville.

“With the Plaintiff’s map now in force, we look forward to fair and equitable city elections in the coming months and call on City Council to accept this ruling. This is a win for Jacksonville. Let’s embrace our new shared future.”

As Howard’s order stands, the remedial map will be used by the city for the 2023 municipal elections, which includes all City Council seats, and the 2024 school board elections until the full case goes to trial.

The final judgement in that case will determine what district lines are used through 2030 until the next census.

You can read Howard’s full 60-page order here

Article by Raymon Troncoso originally published at WJCT News. Reporter Raymon Troncoso joined WJCT News in June of 2021 after concluding his fellowship with Report For America, where he was embedded with Capitol News Illinois covering Illinois state government with a focus on policy and equity. You can reach him at (904) 358-6319 or Rtroncoso@wjct.org and follow him on Twitter @RayTroncoso.

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