Government, News, Politics

Redistricting Deal Reunites Coconut Grove

The ACLU of Florida today announced a proposed settlement in its redistricting lawsuit against the City of Miami that would result in a new election map when Miami voters return to the polls in November 2025.

U.S. District Court Judge K. Michael Moore tossed out the city’s voting map on April 10 after ruling that the city’s district boundaries had been racially gerrymandered in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

As part of the proposed settlement, the city agreed to adopt an election map (known as P5) drawn by the plaintiffs.

Coconut Grove and other neighborhoods that were divided under the city’s previous voting map would be reunited, if the settlement is approved, first by the City Commission on May 9 and then by a federal judge.

The new map “unifies neighborhoods across the city, including Coconut Grove, Overtown, Allapattah, and Edgewater,” the ACLU said in a statement announcing the settlement.y

But the settlement agreement also stipulates that those new boundaries won’t “disqualify” any of the five sitting commissioners from serving out their current term – a condition that’s described in an agenda item drafted for the City Commission meeting on May 9.

The settlement also requires the city to pay $1.58 million in legal fees incurred by the plaintiffs, and to submit a charter amendment to voters in November 2025 that would set standards for future redistricting efforts and establish a Citizen’s Redistricting Committee.

“Today’s agreement shows that when we stand together as a community, we can overcome anyone who tries to ignore our voices,” Carolyn Donaldson, a board member of the South Dade NAACP and Grove Rights and Equity (GRACE), said in a statement. “The map provided by today’s agreement will help our advocacy for communities in Coconut Grove and across Miami, and particularly its Black residents.”

The ACLU, GRACE and others sued the city 2022 after the City Commission redrew the city’s district boundaries in such a way as to ensure that voters would elect three Hispanic commissioners, one Black commissioner, and one Anglo commissioner. Moore said the commission’s intent and the resulting map represented an illegal gerrymander under the law.

In calling out the commission’s redistricting plan, Moore quoted the 1995 Supreme Court decision in Miller vs. Johnson:

“When the State assigns voters on the basis of race, it engages in the offensive and demeaning assumption that voters of a particular race, because of their race, think alike, share the same political interests and will prefer the same candidates at the polls. Race-based assignments embody stereotypes that treat individuals as the product of their race, evaluating their thoughts and efforts—their very worth as citizens—according to criterion barred to the Government by history and the Constitution.”

The settlement agreement, if approved, would cap a long legal battle.

The ACLU and its partners went to court in December 2022 to overturn the city’s redistricting map. Moore ruled in their favor. The City Commission tweaked the map in 2023. Moore ruled against the city again. After a series of appeals, the city won the right to hold an election last year using the 2023 map, but it still had to face Moore. Moore convened a two-day bench trial in January. He ruled against the city for a third time in April.

“We are thrilled the Miami City Commission has finally stopped fighting their own citizens and realized the people deserve fair representation, nothing less,” Neil Steiner of Dechert LLP, a law firm that joined the ACLU to bring the lawsuit, said in a statement.

A high-definition map can be found here.

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