The proposed remedial map that Miami commissioners approved at a June 14 meeting. A federal courts ruling on Friday night makes this now the map for November's election. (Map courtesy of ACLU of Florida)
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Saying it is too close to the November election, a federal appeals court has sided with the city of Miami and will let stand a voting map a lower court found was drawn along racial lines.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in a 2-1 decision late Friday ruled – citing legal precedent – that lower federal courts should ordinarily not alter the election rules on the eve of an election.

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The opinion repeatedly cites the U.S. Supreme Court – including a recent concurring decision written by Justice Brett Kavanaugh – that the goal is to avoid voter confusion and provide “confidence in the fairness of the election.” 

County elections officials said that last Tuesday was the deadline needed to make sure election workers could properly implement whichever map was going to be used.

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Judge Elizabeth Branch and Robert Luck – both judges appointed by former President Donald Trump – wrote the majority opinion. Judge Charles Wilson – appointed by former President Bill Clinton – dissented.

Wilson wrote that his fellow judges are allowing a voting map that has been found to be “unconstitutional racial gerrymandering.” He said it was the city of Miami’s fault for any delay by submitting a remedial plan that perpetuated the racial divides in the five single-member districts.

Miami commissioners approved a revised district map in June, but U.S. District Court Judge K. Michael Moore found that it preserved the same racial boundaries. On Sunday, he adopted a map submitted by the plaintiffs – community groups and individual Miami voters.

The city then appealed to the 11th Circuit Court. Friday’s ruling means the map commissioners approved in June – and which Moore rejected – will be used in November’s election.

“City of Miami residents won today,” District 1 Commissioner Alex Díaz de la Portilla said in a statement to the Miami Herald. “The Appellate Court saw through the bogus arguments made by the plaintiffs in their attempt to mislead our community.”

The city’s new map puts the home of Diaz de la Portilla’s opponent – Miguel Gabela – out of the district. Gabela told the Herald he will continue to run.

The plaintiffs claim in their lawsuit filed last year that the commission created an unconstitutional map by drawing districts based predominantly on race. Commissioners discussed in meetings keeping Districts 1, 3 and 4 Hispanic, keeping District 5 mostly black and keeping District 2 as the “Anglo seat.”

The plaintiffs include groups Engage Miami, Grove Rights and Community Equity (GRACE), the South Dade and Miami-Dade NAACP branches, and five city residents. They are represented by the ACLU of Florida and Dechert LLP.

JOHN PACENTI is the executive editor of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.

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JOHN PACENTI is the executive editor of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.