Florida ACLU Has Their Eye on Fort Pierce Redistricting
Fort Pierce - Tuesday April 26, 2022: The Fort Pierce City Commission is in the midst of finalizing the boundaries for the city's 2 voting districts and the Florida ACLU has their eye on the outcome.
Nearly 30 years ago a group of black community leaders challenged the at-large city voting system in which all the commissioners and the mayor were elected by all registered city voters.
“In part that system was set up to deny black voters an opportunity to elect their preferred candidates," said Nicholas Warren, a staff attorney with the Florida ACLU. "At the time nearly half the city was black, but that substantial black minority was drowned out in the city wide elections.”
The result of the lawsuit was a consent decree, that's still in effect, which created two Fort Pierce voting districts. One substantially white. The other mostly black. Each district elects city commissioners. "Ever since that consent decree one of those districts has indeed afforded black voters an opportunity to elect preferred candidates," said Warren.
Now, as required every ten years in the wake of the census, the map for the two districts is being redrawn. The dominate guideline in that process is ensuring that the population figures in each district are substantially the same. However the initial maps presented to the city commissioners showed a population difference between the two districts greater than 10%.
The ACLU raised concerns about that in an April 15 letter co-written by Warren. “Districts with population differences over 10% are deemed constitutionally suspect," he said. However Warren says the city commissioners are aware of the discrepancy and working on it. “We’re fully confident that the city will bring its districts into alignment with roughly equal population again.”
No legal action is threatened at this time. The city commissioners are slated to vote on the final district map May 2. The Florida ACLU will have their eye on it.