U.S. Supreme Court Keeps Unconstitutional Miami City Commission Map in Place for Upcoming Election

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday, Aug. 17, the U.S. Supreme Court denied an emergency request from civil rights groups that, if granted, would have allowed fair, constitutionally-compliant maps to be in place for Miami’s November 2023 city commission election. 

As a result of the Court’s order, the upcoming election for the Miami City Commission will be held under a map that a federal district court deemed an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. Thursday’s ruling stems from a federal lawsuit brought by three Florida branches of the NAACP, Miami community groups and Miami voters challenging the city commission districts for being racially gerrymandered.

Back in May, federal district Judge K. Michael Moore sided with the pro-voting plaintiffs and temporarily blocked the map after finding that it likely violated the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on using race as a predominant factor in the redistricting process. Following the lower court’s May ruling, the city of Miami adopted new city commission districts in June and notified the court about its passage of a remedial map. After the city submitted its remedial map to the court, the plaintiffs filed objections, asserting that the new map for the city’s five commission districts — like the map that was previously blocked — was racially gerrymandered. 

At the end of July, Moore once again sided with the plaintiffs, finding that the new map submitted by the city did “not completely correct the constitutional defects” that the court found in the city’s original map. Concluding that “there is no longer enough time to order the Commissioners to draw another map,” Moore ordered Miami to adopt an alternative redistricting plan — which was drawn by the plaintiffs — for the November 2023 election.

Miami appealed the district court’s order to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which granted the city’s request to pause the adoption of the plaintiffs’ remedial map pending appeal. The 11th Circuit held that it was too close to the upcoming election to implement the plaintiffs’ remedial plan ordered by the district court, and that doing so would lead to “voter confusion.” As a result of the 11th Circuit’s stay, the city’s remedial map — as opposed to the plaintiff-drawn map — would be in place for the upcoming municipal election. 

Subsequently, on Aug. 6, the plaintiff groups filed an emergency petition in the Supreme Court asking it to vacate, or void, the 11th Circuit’s decision that paused the implementation of their proposed map. With Thursday’s order declining the plaintiffs’ request, the city’s likely unconstitutional map will be used in the November 2023 municipal election. Litigation in the case will continue in the 11th Circuit, but the adoption of fairer districts for the upcoming election is off the table due to the Supreme Court’s order. 

Read the order here.

Learn more about the case here.