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Black Voters File Lawsuit against Fayette County, GA

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on August 15, 2011 9:45 AM

The NAACP, along with 11 residents, have filed a federal voting rights lawsuit against Fayette County, Georgia, alleging that the way in which it conducts its elections is disenfranchising black voters.

As evidence, the plaintiffs point to the fact that, despite housing a population that is 21% African-American, no black candidate has ever been elected to the Board of Commissioners or the Board of Education.

The complaint states that Fayette County's at-large voting method "guarantees precisely this result."

The Fayette County voting rights lawsuit is premised on Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits the use of voting procedures that deny or abridge the right to vote on the basis of race or color.

One of the practices it prohibits is vote dilution--methods that weaken the voting strength of minority voters.

Plaintiffs allege that Fayette's at-large voting system is an illegal form of vote dilution.

As opposed to voting systems wherein a person may only cast a vote for the seat representing his district, at-large voting allows a voter to vote for all open positions. For instance, Fayette's Board of Education has five seats, one assigned to each district. However, everyone in the county votes for each seat.

With high levels of racially polarized voting, and 73% of the population identifying as white, arguably, black voters have little to no ability of electing a black candidate.

At this point, it appears as though plaintiffs have a very good chance at winning this lawsuit.

In the last 20 years, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that there have been nearly 100 successful voting rights lawsuits in Georgia that mimic the use and impact of at-large voting in Fayette County.

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