The city of Jacksonville asked a federal court on Wednesday to waive a requirement that City Council candidates live in their districts for six months before qualifying.
All 19 council seats are up for election in March, including 14 districts and five at-large seats. U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard struck down two of the City Council’s previous attempts at drawing council districts, finding the council segregated voters by race and didn’t correct decades of racial gerrymandering.
While Jacksonville’s charter — the city’s constitution — requires all candidates to live for at least 183 days in the district they’re running in, the city wants Howard to waive the law and allow candidates to run for any district.
Even though Howard’s earlier orders only affected seven of the city’s 14 districts, it appears the city’s request would apply to all 14 districts and to the five residency zones that govern who can run for each of the at-large council seats.
“When the implementation of an interim remedial map may give rise to election confusion, uncertainty, or disruption, courts have waived or extended state and local election rules in order to facilitate a smooth electoral process,” the city said.
The plaintiffs, which include voters and voting-rights organizations like the Jacksonville branch of the NAACP, the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville, the local ACLU of Florida chapter and Florida Rising, said they don’t oppose waiving the requirement for candidates to the 14 districts, but they do oppose waiving the residency requirement for candidates to the five at-large seats.
The city’s lawyers say they would still want candidates to live in the district they’re running in by the time they qualify. The qualifying period is Jan. 9 to Jan. 13.
If granted, candidates would be able to move around to game out which district would best suit them.
For example, Council Member Reggie Gaffney Jr. lives north of the Trout River as the only council member in District 8, but he could instead run for a downtown-focused District 7, which his father, the former council member who voted for the city’s maps, has said he would prefer.
No candidates currently live in District 14, a newly competitive district that covers all of Argyle. Residents in the area have complained that Argyle is often neglected by council members who don’t live in the area. If granted, candidates could move from other areas like Ortega to run for the district.
The city also filed on Tuesday a motion to stay Howard’s order that implemented a map proposed by civil-rights groups. The city has asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to stop Howard’s order and instead allow the city to use a different plan that Howard had already rejected.
Motions requesting stays usually ask appellate courts to restore the status quo, but that would have meant returning to a decade-old redistricting plan with disproportionate populations. It’s unusual to file a stay motion that also asks for a change to the status quo.
The plaintiffs have until next Tuesday at noon to file a response to the motion.
What else do I need to know?
The Tributary has been covering local redistricting for more than a year. Here is a sample of our past coverage:
Jacksonville’s redistricting plan risks racial gerrymandering claims, experts say
Jacksonville redistricting plan splits dozens of neighborhoods
Jacksonville’s redistricting plans ignore federal guidelines
For decades, Jacksonville City Council redistricted based off ‘misinformation’
‘They’re not compact. They’re sprawling.’: Federal judge probes Jacksonville City Council redistricting
‘Racial segregation’: Federal judge blocks Jacksonville City Council districts as racial gerrymanders
Court rejects Jacksonville council districts, orders city to use plaintiffs’ maps
INTERACTIVE: HOW JACKSONVILLE’S CITY COUNCIL DISTRICTS SORT RESIDENTS BY RACE
INTERACTIVE: HOW JACKSONVILLE’S MAP SPLITS NEIGHBORHOODS
INTERACTIVE: SEE COURT-ORDERED MAP