City of Miami Racially Gerrymandered Voting Districts, Judge Finds

The City of Miami unconstitutionally gerrymandered voting districts by race and ethnicity, a federal judge found on Wednesday, throwing out the city’s voting map and rejecting the way city commissioners have tried to hold on to power for more than two decades.

Judge K. Michael Moore of the Federal District Court in Miami wrote that commissioners had used redistricting rationale since 1997 to draw five districts with the explicit intent of having voters elect three Hispanic commissioners, one Black commissioner and one non-Hispanic white commissioner.

“Sorting voters on the basis of race, as the city did here, deprives Miamians of the constitutional promise that they receive equal protection under the law,” Judge Moore wrote. “These are the serious harms that the city perpetuated, and Miamians suffered. Today, the court permanently prevents the city from racial gerrymandering any longer.”

The ruling comes as scandal has roiled City Hall.

Mayor Francis X. Suarez, who briefly sought the Republican presidential nomination, has been dogged by controversies over undisclosed work for clients outside City Hall. Last year, a jury held Commissioner Joe Carollo liable for more than $63 million in damages for siccing inspectors on two businessmen as political retribution.

A former commissioner, Alex Díaz de la Portilla, faces bribery and money laundering charges in a case involving a city land deal. (He has pleaded not guilty.) Another former commissioner, Sabina Covo, has been under investigation for bribery. (She has denied wrongdoing.) The city attorney, Victoria Méndez, has been accused in a lawsuit of being involved in a house-flipping scheme with her husband. (She has denied involvement or wrongdoing.)

As a result of Judge Moore’s ruling, the city could be forced to hold a special election or to draw a new voting map. The next municipal elections are supposed to take place in November 2025. Commissioners, who are nonpartisan, serve staggered four-year terms.

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