Jacksonville City Council members received a map proposal this week from the same plaintiffs who successfully argued the city’s previous districts were racially gerrymandered.

The Jacksonville Branch of the NAACP and other civil rights groups and voters sued the city, arguing the city had racially gerrymandered its City Council and Duval County School Board maps. A federal court said they were likely to win their lawsuit and barred the city from using those maps, saying the gerrymandered districts had segregated voters based on race.

“The ‘Unity Map‘ we submit to you presents a new vision for the city of Jacksonville, one that moves us forward, rather than backward,” said Marcella Washington, a former Florida State College at Jacksonville political science professor and a plaintiff in the case, at the City Council’s Tuesday meeting.

The City Council redistricting committee expects to receive its first drafts from the city’s experts on Nov. 1. Some council members said they planned to talk to the expert one-on-one before the public meeting. The court ordered the city to pass a new map by Nov. 8.

Ben Frazier, another plaintiff in the case, urged the council to accept the map proposal as an olive branch. “We’re asking you to bring new maps, maps that can bring about togetherness in our community,” Frazier said. “It’s time for us to bury some damn hatchets. It’s time for us to offer and accept all the branches of peace. Is there something wrong with that? We want to work with you We want to make this one city, one that is too busy to hate.”

Council members want to protect incumbents

Most council members declined to weigh in on the proposed map, but some noted concerns.

The Tributary will be tracking City Council members’ thoughts.

Four said the map must take into account where incumbents live.

The proposed map didn’t pair any council incumbents who were running for re-election as of Tuesday, but a day later, District 10’s Brenda Priestly Jackson, who had been running for a citywide seat, announced she was going to run for re-election instead. She and District 12’s Randy White would be in the same district.

On Twitter, Priestly Jackson also said demographic data on the map was “an essential piece of info that’s missing. Maybe the plaintiffs will provide those data points soon.”

Councilman Reggie Gaffney, who filed resignation paperwork so he could run for state senate, worried about which district his house would be in. Although he’s not running for re-election, his son, who lives with him, is running to replace him.

“It would be unfair to draw me out of a district,” the term-limited Gaffney said.

Gaffney said it looked like the new map would’ve drawn him and Councilwoman Ju’Coby Pittman into the same district. That’s actually not true. Pittman’s home would be in a new Urban Core-based District 7, and Gaffney’s home would be the only council members’ home in a new north-of-the-Trout-River District 8.

Gaffney also said that if the council accepted reducing the Black populations in the four Black-majority districts, it could lead to the court striking down state Senate District 5, the district where Gaffney lost in the August primaries, for being too Black.

That comparison is peculiar because the four districts he referred to all would have a larger Black population than the Senate district. Senate District 5 is 41.6% Black voting-age population, while the four council districts he referred to would range from 48.4% to 56% Black voting-age population.

Other council members highlighted similar concerns.

Councilman Rory Diamond, one of the vice chairs on the redistricting committee, told the Tributary he hadn’t looked at the data yet, but he thought if the proposed map were passed, “African American Democratic representation on the Council would go down and cause a new set of plaintiffs to file suit.”

Still, he told News4Jax the council should look “at every map that comes from the public. These are plaintiffs, so you’d be crazy not to look at what they’re presenting.”

Councilman Matt Carlucci similarly said the map was “a good product for Council members to start weighing in on.” He praised the map, saying it appeared to “be more compact and politically diverse and thoughtfully done.” Still, he said he would need to review the districts more.

Councilwoman Randy DeFoor said that after listening to her constituents, she believed one district should hold Riverside, Avondale, Murray Hill and Ortega. Currently, and in the City Council’s struck-down map, Murray Hill is split between districts. In the plaintiffs’ map, Murray Hill and Ortega would be in their own districts, separate from a district that would contain all of Riverside and Avondale.

Councilman Danny Becton said in a text message he had five principles he would use to weigh any new map: communities of interest, compactness, contiguity, following natural boundaries and not drawing any incumbents out of their districts.

“As this process plays out, it will be those principles for which I will use to support any changes,” Becton said. “As for now, I have not had the opportunity to hear any discussion as to how the map presented last night or any other map to be presented meets those principles to provide for the best configuration possible for our city.”

Council Vice President Ron Salem said he wanted the map to take into account where incumbents and filed candidates live.

“If you’ve based your campaign on running against a particular person and now you’re moved into a different district — we need to make an effort to limit that as much as we can,” Salem said. “Any map I look at, I want that plotted on there.”

Council members Nick Howland and Michael Boylan said they were still studying the map and couldn’t yet offer any thoughts.

Having it before the committee meets next week is very helpful, Boylan said.

Councilman Aaron Bowman said he wouldn’t comment on the maps because of the pending litigation.

Council members Joyce Morgan, Al Ferraro, Kevin Carrico, LeAnna Cumber, Ju’Coby Pittman, Tyrona Clark-Murray, Randy White and Terrance Freeman have not yet returned requests for comment.

Proposed map’s data

U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard found that the Jacksonville City Council’s map segregated voters on the basis of race, packing Black voters into four of the council’s 14 districts, which reduced their overall voting power and “bleached” three surrounding districts by making them whiter.

In the plaintiffs’ proposed map, a majority of people in four districts would still be Black, but the percentages would fall from the earlier map. Those districts would now range from 50% to 60% Black, compared to the City Council’s map that drew four districts that ranged from 61% Black to 70% Black.

The surrounding three districts would now be 21% Black, 43% Black and 36% Black. In one of those districts, District 12, Black residents would now outnumber white residents. The City Council’s earlier map made those districts 21% Black, 33% Black and 21% Black.

The City Council redistricting committee expects to receive its first drafts from the city’s experts on Nov. 1. Some council members said they planned to talk to the expert one-on-one before the public meeting. The court ordered the city to pass a new map by Nov. 8.

The proposed map only changes eight districts, the seven primarily on the Northside and Westside that plaintiffs challenged, plus a relatively minor change to District 3, moving some East Arlington neighborhoods into District 2.


To draw districts protected by the Voting Rights Act, the plaintiffs will likely need to show Black voters would be able to elect their preferred candidates in four of the districts.

The Tributary analyzed 16 elections across the proposed City Council districts, including:

the 2015 May mayoral race and At Large Group 5 election; the 2016 presidential and U.S. Senate; the 2018 elections for governor, chief financial officer, attorney general, agriculture commissioner and senate, and a special election for Duval County tax collector; the 2019 march tax collectors’ race; both of the 2020 elections for U.S. House of Representatives and the elections for president and clerk of courts; the August 2022 sheriff election.

Democrats would’ve won three of those districts all 16 times, a fourth district 15 times and a fifth district 14 times.

In four districts, Black voters made up a majority of the people who cast ballots across those elections.

The 14 districts of the Unity Map across 16 elections. [Andrew Pantazi/The Tributary]

Andrew Pantazi edits and reports for 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 is a Jacksonville...