Jacksonville redistricting committee mulls ‘A-Ha moments,’ incumbency
Jacksonville City Hall.

City_Hall_St_James_Building
Maps look likely to affect 2023 elections and beyond.

The Jacksonville City Council Special Committee on Redistricting met Tuesday, as early deliberations on new district maps continue.

The goal, said chairman Aaron Bowman to the rest of the seven-person committee, was to ascertain if committee members had any “A-Ha moments on data you’ve been looking at” from the 2020 Census.

Specific epiphanies weren’t really on offer, but what emerged was more promising: a seeming consensus on parameters moving forward, or at least the contours thereof.

Bill Killingsworth, the city’s head of planning, offered some thoughts on how to make compact districts that allowed incumbents to run again, soliciting recommendations from the committee for some early drafts of maps.

Killingsworth said that if districts were divided by voting age population, that would allow for six districts north of the river and eight south of the river, at districts with roughly 56,000 voting aged people a piece. Districts based on total population would not be such an even divide, he noted, with roughly 71,000 people per district.

The even draw wasn’t an easy sell. Councilman Danny Becton said he preferred the total population split.

“It’s not just the river, it’s also the Intercoastal,” noted Bowman, saying the Intercoastal Waterway also presents a natural boundary that should be taken into account.

Total population prevailed, but Killingsworth still urged maps not to cross the river if possible.

Incumbency was also an issue.

Democrat Brenda Priestly Jackson noted, regarding incumbency, the danger of drawing someone currently in a seat out of it, leading to an exchange over the prerogatives of the committee.

“There’s not a mandate that you have to keep an incumbent in office,” noted an attorney from the city’s Office of General Counsel.

Priestly Jackson questioned that read, noting maps could make people ineligible based on residency.

“We don’t have incumbency as a criterion to negotiate,” Priestly Jackson noted, and Bowman backed.

The committee’s strong preference to ensure incumbents aren’t mapped out of their seats, even in elections in 2026 and beyond, was also reflected in committee deliberations.

The panel also mulled the timetable for producing results, with Republican Becton pressing to find out if redistricting could affect the 2022 school board elections.

The city’s office of general counsel, saying the Census Bureau data was late, said they did not contemplate these new maps being in place for the three school board races in 2022. All of them involve incumbents.

“At the end of the day, we’re only working for the first races to be in March, 2023,” said Becton, a citywide candidate for Property Appraiser that year. His race will not be affected by these maps.

Priestly Jackson, running citywide for an At Large City Council seat, likewise thinks a more ambitious timeframe wouldn’t be realistic.

In the end, the committee decided not to rush the timeframe for new school board maps in the recommendations for Killingsworth.

The committee meets again after Labor Day, no earlier than Sept. 9.

Jacksonville, though plurality Democratic, currently has a City Council under GOP supermajority control. Republicans also control all Constitutional offices.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected]tics.com or on Twitter: @AGGancarski



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