When the wards were adjusted after the 2000 census, each was nearly equal in population. The 2010 census numbers reveals that people have moved, the city has expanded, and with the decision by the census to not count deployed persons as residing here, the base population dropped by 5,431 persons. Federal case law and state law requires the city to review the population of each district after each census. A key test is the 10 percent rule, which holds if the most populous and least populous ward are together more than 10 percent from the ideal ward, then you must redistrict. A quick look at Jacksonville’s wards determined that each ward was more than 10% from the ideal ward of 17,536.
Jacksonville has benefited from having two special minority-majority wards, which help to leverage minority votes to help provide representation on the City Council. A federally held standard called retrogression holds that changes made to the wards cannot diminish the ability of minorities to be elected.
Everyone counts. The wards are configured for the ideal population of the city; young, old, voters, non-voters, minorities, and everyone. Some wards may have more turnout than others and some may have greater participation in elections. However, the “one person, one vote” clause of the Constitution requires the city to configure the wards to be as equal as possible counting the total population.
A Citizens’ Committee
Ideas and comments from the public were received by the 2010 Jacksonville Redistricting Committee. The committee was formed by the Jacksonville City Council to enable a citizen committee to recommend the new wards. No City Council members sat on the committee, but some experienced persons who have participated in redistricting and election matters were selected along with some persons who were new to the process. The mixture was one of experienced and inexperienced persons.
Public Input Received
Five separate public input sessions were held by the committee. One was held in each ward and the fifth was a live, interactive session held at City Hall, broadcast live on the Jacksonville-Onslow Government Television Channel and streamed live to the web. During the sessions there was strong sentiment for the minority-majority ward system, for keeping lines as close to where they are now, and to keep neighborhoods together as much as possible.
The Committee Recommendation
After hearing public comment and asking staff to prepare proposals that would meet criteria adopted by the committee, the group had significant deliberation before deciding on one proposal. The unanimous vote sent the matter to the City Council for consideration.