MIAMI – On Friday night, a divided three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit permitted a racially gerrymandered Miami district map to go into effect on the grounds that a lower-court ruling adopting a different map came too close to an election. On Sunday, the plaintiffs filed an emergency application to the Supreme Court, seeking to vacate the Eleventh Circuit's stay, and reinstate the district court's original order implementing a new, fair map for Miami.
In July, a federal judge ruled the Miami City’s Commission map was an unconstitutional racial gerrymander, finding that it divided neighborhoods along racial lines, packed Black and Hispanic voters into specific districts, and undermined fair representation. The federal judge approved a new map developed by Grove Rights and Community Equity (GRACE), Engage Miami, the South Dade and Miami-Dade NAACP Branches, individual plaintiffs, and the ACLU of Florida.
However, following an emergency motion by the City of Miami to put the lower-court ruling on hold pending their appeal, the court of appeals agreed to allow the City’s racially gerrymandered map to go into effect until after final resolution of the appeal. The appellate ruling is not a comment on the merits of the case overall, nor is it a comment on the district court’s ruling that the City’s new map perpetuates racial gerrymandering, but was based solely on how close the lower-court ruling came to the November election. Whether or not the Supreme Court grants the plaintiffs’ emergency application, the plaintiffs will proceed in the district court to make their case at trial.
The emergency application to the Supreme Court can be found here.
Following the ruling, the civil rights groups released the following statement:
Nicholas Warren, staff attorney at the ACLU of Florida:
“This ruling by the Court of Appeals is deeply frustrating. This unjust decision will continue to harm Miamians’ opportunity at fair representation. Voters should choose their politicians, not the other way around. We are committed to replacing this unconstitutional map, and regret that the court has effectively approved this racially gerrymandered map for several more months. This case is not over yet. While we are disappointed in the court’s decision, we will continue to work to ensure Miami voters' voices are heard."
Carolyn Donaldson, board member at Grove Rights and Community Equity Inc. (GRACE):
“We have worked tirelessly for months to correct the unconstitutional racial gerrymandering before the election this November, and the district court achieved that goal. We are deeply frustrated that the court of appeals put a hold on that essential work, but we will continue to fight for fair representation in Miami.”
Rebecca Pelham, executive director of Engage Miami:
“We are very disappointed in this decision by the Court of Appeals. After months of working towards a fair map for the City of Miami alongside our fellow plaintiffs and concerned community members, this stay delays justice and means that voters may have to go to the polls in November using a racially gerrymandered map. We will continue to advocate for fair elections in the City of Miami and to exhaust every last option in the fight for fair maps”
Daniella Pierre, president of the NAACP Miami-Dade Branch:
“We join and stand with fellow organizations and the broader community calling for fair maps and an equitable redistricting process.”