Alabama State Conference of the NAACP, et al. v. City of Pleasant Grove, et al.

Date Filed: 12/13/2018

On December 13, 2018, LDF filed a lawsuit under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments challenging the at-large electoral system for the City Council of Pleasant Grove, Alabama. Under the at-large system, the whole city votes for each seat on the City Council rather than voting by district. If the city had districts, Black voters would comprise the majority of voters in three out of five districts. The at-large elections for the five-member City Council have ensured that no Black candidate has ever been successfully elected. 

Pleasant Grove has a well-documented history of racial discrimination in voting, education, employment, and housing. With a city population of roughly 10,000 people, voting that is sharply polarized along racial lines, and a slight white majority, the at-large elections for the five-member City Council have ensured that no Black candidate has ever won a seat on the City Council. The lawsuit sought to convert Pleasant Grove City Council elections from the at-large electoral scheme to five single-member districts, which could facilitate up to three-majority Black districts. In City of Pleasant Grove v. United States (1987), the U.S. Supreme Court found that the city had intentionally discriminated when it annexed nearby unincorporated white communities, but not similarly situated Black communities.

In October 2019, Black voters won the right to elect candidates of their choice as the court approved a final settlement between Plaintiffs and the City of Pleasant Grove in which the City agreed to change its electoral method from at-large to cumulative voting, where each voter will be allowed as many votes as there are vacant seats on the City Council. The order required the new election methods be in place before the August 2020 election. Additionally, the agreement includes provisions regarding voter education and training, whereby the City has agreed to implement an ongoing voter education and training program to educate City residents, election administrators, and polling place workers about the cumulative method of election. 

On February 4, 2020, LDF sent Pleasant Grove’s counsel a letter requesting an update on the City’s progress in implementing its transition to cumulative voting for city council elections and the corresponding voter education and training plan that was agreed to by the parties as part of the settlement agreement. The City’s counsel did not immediately reply to LDF, but instead, on February 12, initiated part of the agreed to voter education plan by posting cumulative voting instructions and information about upcoming public voter education forums on cumulative voting on the City’s website. While it was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the City held monthly forums in advance of the August 2020 municipal election.