JACKSONVILLE CITY COUNCIL HOSTS ITS FOURTH REDISTRICTING PUBLIC HEARING TONIGHT


By Andrew Pantazi
The Tributary


Tonight, the Jacksonville City Council will host its fourth public hearing at 6 p.m. at Raines High School’s auditorium at 3663 Raines Ave. to ask for residents’ thoughts on the city’s proposed redistricting plan. People who want to speak will need to fill out speaker cards by 6:30 p.m.
The Tributary has been covering state and local redistricting since before the Census data was released last year, and this is the first meaningful chance residents can use that reporting to share their thoughts with the City Council.
The Tributary wanted to offer a primer on the basics of Jacksonville redistricting to help everyone, including those who may not have been paying attention so far, understand what’s been going on in Jacksonville’s local redistricting ahead of tonight’s hearing.
At the hearing, we’ll be handing out brochures with the below Q-and-A.
You can also see our interactive version of the City Council map at bit.ly/tributary-interactive. We’ll also be answering any questions you have during the meeting in a WhatsApp group

WHAT IS REDISTRICTING?
Every 10 years, the federal government publishes a census of every person living in the country. After that census is published, state and local governments redraw boundary lines to ensure electoral districts are generally equal in population. In Jacksonville, that includes districts for congress, the state legislature, City Council and School Board. The Jacksonville City Council is responsible for drawing its own districts and drawing Duval County School Board seats.

WHAT DOES THE CITY LEGALLY HAVE TO CONSIDER?
Districts need to be equal in population. Generally, courts have ruled the district with the largest population can’t have 10% more people than the smallest district.

Districts can’t be drawn to disenfranchise minorities. Packing is when a district concentrates residents from a racial group far beyond what’s necessary to elect a candidate of their choice, which reduces their influence in the remaining districts. Cracking spreads a minority group across districts so those voters don’t have the voting power to elect candidates of their choice.

City law requires districts drawn “in as logical and compact a geographical pattern as it is possible to achieve … so the people of the City, and their varied economic, social and ethnic interests and objectives, are adequately represented.”
 

WHAT DID JACKSONVILLE PRIORITIZE IN DRAWING THESE MAPS?

The City Council prioritized making as few changes to the current maps as possible and protecting incumbents from being drawn out of their districts. The map’s districts split 47 of Jacksonville’s recognized 206 neighborhoods.

Two council members, Ju’Coby Pittman and Reggie Gaffney, prioritized putting as many Black residents as possible into their districts. Pittman’s District 8 is 70% Black, and Gaffney’s District 7 is 61% Black. Experts say this might constitute gerrymandering, reducing Black voters’ influence on the City Council by concentrating most Black residents into four districts.

Because of the equal-population requirements, City Council had to make at least slight changes to most districts. Three districts remain the same: Districts 1 (Arlington), 9 (stretching from Collins Road to Grand Park) & 10 (stretching from Collins Road to Sherwood Forest).


WHAT ELSE COULD BE PRIORITIES?

Proportional partisan results, by drawing seven Democratic and seven Republican seats.

Competitiveness with as many seats as possible able to be won by either party

Neighborhood seats that reflect existing communities to preserve identities of neighborhoods like Murray Hill, East Arlington, Sandalwood, Myrtle Avenue, Ribault, Hillcrest, Wesconnett or the dozens of other neighborhoods split under this proposal.

Compactness by drawing logical shapes that adhere to the local geography.


WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE PUBLIC HEARINGS?

The City Council Rules Committee is soliciting feedback at four public hearings. The City Council can still amend its plans if it faces pressure.

After the final hearing (Feb. 17) the Rules Committee must wait at least 15 days (March 4 at the soonest) before sending the plan to the whole City Council. At the next City Council meeting (March 8 at the soonest), the council could amend the plan. If it does, it would need to request more hearings. April 12 is the latest that the City Council can enact the plan before hitting its statutory deadline. If it doesn’t approve a plan by the deadline, a circuit judge would take over and approve a plan.

WHAT STRUCTURAL CHANGES ARE POSSIBLE?

Citizens can petition to change the city’s charter, which acts like a constitution for city government, to amend the redistricting process.

Some Florida local governments use independent panels to draw maps.

The charter can also outline other priorities that must be considered, or, similar to the state’s Fair Districts amendments that govern the Legislature, they could ban considerations. The Fair Districts amendments banned the consideration of incumbency, the favoring or disfavoring of political parties and the reduction in voting strength for racial and language minorities.

The charter could change the way council members are elected to eliminate the relevance of redistricting through a proportional representation system. In some systems, a voter gets two votes: one for a candidate in their district and one for a party. The party vote elects extra people until the government is proportional. That means that if 50% of people vote for one party, but only 33% of the elected district candidates come from that party, the government would add extra lawmakers to make it proportional.

This is Changing Florida, a Tributary newsletter keeping you up to date on redistricting, demographics and the fight for political power in the Sunshine State.

To make sure you don’t miss out on an issue, click here to subscribe now and play a part in ensuring fair districts for all of Florida. Click here to read our archives.

We can’t do this work without support from readers like you. Click here to donate to The Tributary.

If you have questions about redistricting or the Census, you can send them to us by clicking here.


Submit your maps

We want to see what you think Jacksonville’s 14 City Council districts should look like.

Here’s how you can get started drawing your own maps.

  • Go to DavesRedistricting.org.
  • Create an account.
  • Go to DavesRedistricting.org/maps.
  • Select New Map.
  • Choose Florida as your state.
  • Select “Other” as your plan type.
  • Restrict to Duval.
  • Select 14 districts.
  • Click apply and it will take you to a new screen where you can begin drawing districts.

When you’re done, send a link to your map to info@jaxtrib.org, so we can feature your map in a future newsletter.

Andrew Pantazi is the founding editor of The Tributary. He previously worked as a reporter at The Florida Times-Union where he helped organize the newsroom's union with the NewsGuild-CWA. He and his wife,...