Federal Judge Strikes Down Miami’s Racially Gerrymandered Commission Districts 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A federal judge in Florida yesterday struck down Miami’s city commission districts for being unconstitutional racial gerrymanders and ordered the implementation of a new map for future elections. 

The ruling stemmed from a federal lawsuit filed in 2022 by local organizations and individual residents alleging that the districts for Miami’s five-member city commission were “drawn along racial lines for the predominant purpose of maintaining racially segregated districts.” As the city’s governing body, the commission has the power to pass local laws, adopt regulations and more. 

According to the lawsuit — which went to trial in January — the city packed certain districts with as many Hispanic and Black residents as possible in order to “diminish minority voters’ influence and power.” 

At trial, the plaintiffs argued that the city purposefully used racial considerations to construct a predominately white, “Anglo access district” in the 2nd District, while also “imposing a 50% Black voting-age population (BVAP) quota for” the 5th District. Meanwhile, the plaintiffs asserted that the city packed Hispanic voters into the 1st, 3rd and 4th Districts. 

Prior to yesterday’s ruling, federal district Judge K. Michael Moore sided with the plaintiffs in May 2023 and temporarily blocked the city’s newly drawn 2022 map after finding that it likely violated the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on using race as the predominant factor in the redistricting process. 

Following Moore’s initial ruling, the city of Miami adopted new city commission districts in June 2023, but Moore once again blocked the districts, holding that the city did “not completely correct the constitutional defects” that the court found in the city’s original map. 

Moore — a George H.W. Bush appointee — ultimately ordered the implementation of the plaintiffs’ proposed redistricting plan for the city’s November 2023 municipal election. However, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals paused the adoption of the remedial map, maintaining that it was too close to the upcoming election to enact new districts. 

The U.S. Supreme Court subsequently denied an emergency request from the plaintiffs to lift the 11th Circuit’s pause, thereby leaving the city’s likely unconstitutional map in place for the November 2023 elections. 

In yesterday’s 83-page opinion, Moore once again agreed with the plaintiffs, concluding that Miami’s original and revised commission districts were racially gerrymandered in violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. 

“By sorting its citizens based on race, the City reduced Miamians to no more than their racial backgrounds, thereby denying them the equal protection of the laws that the Fourteenth Amendment promises,” the order stated. 

Moore’s order highlighted various examples of city commissioners overtly stating their intent to maintain racially defined districts throughout the map drawing process — all of which led him to establish that “their sole priority and only instruction was to ensure that the districts continued to be drawn based on race.”

Following the ruling, the court will hold a conference to discuss how the city will remedy its constitutional violation by drawing a new map and potentially holding special elections. 

Nicholas Warren, an attorney for the plaintiffs, called yesterday’s ruling “another win for democracy and equal representation,” adding that “[w]e look forward to another remedial process that finally ensures voters can choose their representatives, rather than politicians choosing their voters.” 

Read the ruling here.

Learn more about the case here.