Redistricting lawsuit moving forward

Lazaro Aleman
ECB Publishing

In the absence so far of a court ruling on the county’s motion to dismiss, all parties in the lawsuit filed by the ACLU against the Jefferson County Commission, School Board and Supervisor of Elections over the 2011 redistricting continue their preparations for the eventuality of a hearing or trial. School Board Attorney Opal Screen Shot 2015-06-23 at 2.45.10 PMMcKinney-Williams — who in conjunction with Attorney Gerald B. Jerry Curington, her colleague at the Tallahassee law firm of Ausley-McMullen, is representing the School Board — reports that the process is proceeding as expected. “The Jefferson County School Board (JCSB) has answered the plaintiffs’ complaint and the parties are in the process of completing discovery (production of documents, interrogatories, expert disclosures etc.),” McKinney-Williams responded to the Monticello News via email last week. In the interim, according to McKinney-Williams, she and Curington are working with the attorneys for the Jefferson County Commission and Supervisor of Elections to draft a joint Motion for Summary Judgment. The latter motion, McKinney-Williams relates, essentially argues that that the constitution does not prohibit local governmental bodies from counting prisoners when drawing district lines. “We anticipate that the plaintiffs will argue that the constitution prohibits the counting of prisoners when drawing district lines,” she emailed. As of now, no hearings have been set in the case, according to McKinney-Williams. “It appears that both parties are hopeful that the court will rule on these questions as a matter of law (with or without a hearing) and thus avoid a costly trial,” she wrote. The ACLU filed the lawsuit in federal court in early March on behalf of a group of local citizens contesting the 2011/12 redistricted map. The suit alleges that the redrawn lines of the district map violate the one-person, one-vote constitutional requirement. At issue is the question of whether the 1,200 inmates at the Jefferson Correctional Institution (JCI) should be counted as District 3 residents. The suit argues that the inmates falsely inflate the political strength of District 3 voters to the detriment of voters in the other four districts, and particularly minority voters. “As a result,” argues the suit, “every four actual residents of District 3 have as much political influence in county and school affairs as seven residents in other districts.”