FAYETTEVILLE, Ga. (AP) — A federal court struck down Fayette County’s at-large method of electing members to certain county offices, saying in an opinion released Tuesday that the method was a violation of the Voting Rights Act.
A U.S. District Court judge ruled on a lawsuit that was filed in 2011 and ordered the county to establish an alternative to the at-large election method.
With Fayette County being about 70 percent white and 20 percent black, according to Census statistics from 2011, officials from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund officials said the at-large method virtually guaranteed that African-American candidates would never be elected to the County Board of Commissioners or the County Board of Education. Regardless of their qualifications, African-American candidates could not get the support of white voters in the county, Legal Defense Fund officials said in a release.
No African-American candidate has ever been elected to the board of commissioners or education in the county’s 191-year history, Valerie Holford of the Legal Defense and Educational Fund said in a statement. Holford added that until the ruling, Fayette County was one of 20 school districts in the state using a completely at-large voting method.
"Our country has now twice elected a black person to serve in the highest office in the land," Leah Aden, assistant counsel for the Legal Defense Fund said in a release. "Today’s decision provides an opportunity for Fayette County to embrace its racial diversity and finally integrate its political process and provide avenues of voting opportunity for all of its citizens."
The court ordered officials to present alternative voting methods on or before June 25. The method may be a district-based voting method, which Legal Defense Fund officials say is likely to give the county’s African-American residents better representation.