Just days after the 46th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) and Georgia attorney Wayne Kendall filed a federal lawsuit alleging that Fayette County, Georgia’s at-large method of electing members to the County Board of Commissioners and Board of Education violates the Act. The case was filed on behalf of the Georgia State Conference NAACP, Fayette County NAACP, and Black voters of Fayette County.
“Fayette County’s at-large election method is a structural wall of exclusion that guarantees that Black voters, in spite of having tried in election after election, cannot elect their candidates of choice,” said Ryan Haygood, Director of LDF’s Political Participation Group. “The Voting Rights Act is the best vehicle for removing that wall, and for bringing greater inclusion, fairness, and accountability to Fayette County’s political process through district-based voting.”
Although Black residents comprise twenty percent of Fayette County, are geographically concentrated in the northeastern part of the County, and consistently vote together for Board of Commissioners and Board of Education candidates, no Black candidate has ever been elected to either of these boards.
Given the absence of meaningful support of Black-preferred candidates by white voters, who comprise seventy percent of Fayette County’s population, those candidates cannot win a county-wide election under the current electoral system. For example, a Black candidate recently lost a Fayette County election after receiving nearly unanimous support (99 percent) from Black voters, but securing only 15 percent from White voters.
“The goal of this case is straightforward: we seek to create five equally-populated election districts in Fayette County, each of which would elect one candidate to each board,” said local counsel Wayne Kendall. “By replacing at-large voting with district voting, Black residents would constitute the majority of the voting age population in one district, and would finally be able to elect candidates of their choosing to each board.”
“This case is about fundamental fairness and accountability,” said Edward DuBose, President of the Georgia State Conference NAACP, a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “All communities in Fayette County should have the opportunity to elect candidates who are responsive to their needs.”
“For far too long, we have lacked the representation and leadership on these boards to address many of the important issues that confront us. We should have the opportunity to elect representatives to the Board of Commissioners and Board of Education to ensure that all of the voices within our community are heard. We should all be able to agree with that basic principle,” said plaintiff John E. Jones, President of the Fayette County NAACP.