U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan denied a motion by Gateway Retail Center LLC for a preliminary injunction, which would have prevented the elections center from immediately moving to One Imeson Center in North Jacksonville.
With the opinion, Holland said the elections center will begin Monday to move its warehouse functions from Gateway Shopping Center, where it has been since 2006, to the former Sears catalog distribution center.
"You're always apprehensive of the outcome, but I've been looking forward to today," said Holland, the supervisor of elections.
City Council approved the One Imeson site in August, but a lawsuit Gateway filed less than two weeks later temporarily delayed any move.
The suit alleged the council's decision discriminated against African-American voters by moving the center. It also said the city retaliated against Gateway for exercising its free speech rights by including certain restrictions on political activity in the lease. And, it said the city violated city code by picking the less economically feasible deal.
The judge didn't agree with the claims.
Corrigan said it was "questionable" whether Gateway should be the proper party asserting voting rights. Also, no early voting sites have been established and Holland has publicly stated he intends to keep the function at the center or nearby, making Gateway's claim "at best, premature."
"Thus, this is a lease dispute, not a case about the disenfranchisement of African-Americans," Corrigan summarized.
Holland said Thursday he still is "100 percent committed" to having early voting in the Gateway community and that the city is working with Gateway's owners on a potential deal. Should that fall through or the owners not respond, Holland said there are two other locations within the community that will work.
One Imeson is providing 30,000 square feet of rent-free storage for three months for the supervisor's warehouse equipment. Holland said the move will take about two weeks.
Attorney Dan Bean, who represents One Imeson's parent company, said Thursday that Corrigan's decision "was consistent with our position in the case."
He agreed with Corrigan's decision that the case was about a lease and not about disenfranchisement.
The battle isn't over, though.
"Though this decision does not end the lawsuit, unless Gateway develops additional evidence or is able to elucidate a more persuasive legal theory, it will have little likelihood of ultimately prevailing," Corrigan said in the summary.
And now, another lawsuit on the issue of disenfranchisement has emerged and names the city and Holland as defendants.
Headed by the Rev. R.L. Gundy, Florida Southern Christian Leadership Conference and others, the suit filed Tuesday for injunctive relief alleges the move provides no early voting at the site and violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
A motion filed Wednesday sought to combine the Gateway and Gundy lawsuit, citing similarities in scope and witnesses.
Bean doesn't agree and said One Imeson will respond within the next two weeks.
"We intend to point out the cases are not similar," Bean said.
The Gundy lawsuit has been moved to be heard by Corrigan, as well.
The legal battle over moving an elections center isn't over, but Jerry Holland is moving on.