Frady, Hearn defend county’s new at-large voting district map
Last week, two Fayette County Commissioners defended the current at-large voting method against the district voting scheme proposed by a lawsuit filed by the Fayette County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
It marked the first time any commissioner has publicly spoken out about the matter since the lawsuit was filed Aug. 9 last year.
In defense of at-large voting, Commission Chairman Herb Frady said he felt that if he can vote to spend county taxpayers’ money, “you should be able to vote me in or out of office.”
“I think that’s a good way to go, and it’s a fair and equal way to go,” Frady said.
Commissioner Lee Hearn noted that as a government employee he has worked for several counties that used district voting. Hearn said he felt “often times, the only thing those commissioners, who were elected by their district, were interested in was what was going on in their kingdom.”
“They didn’t at times look at what was best for the overall county,” Hearn continued. “And I think as Americans and Fayette Countians we need to look out for what’s best for our entire county.”
The NAACP argues that district voting would enhance the chance of a black person being elected to the board by creating one “majority minority” district and limiting voters to selecting just one candidate for the commission, coinciding with the commission district each voter lives in.
Currently the county has at-large voting, which means each resident can vote on all five commission seats regardless of where they live in the county.
While the county has not specifically said it would challenge the district voting lawsuit, last week’s adoption of a five-district map for commission seats included retention of at-large voting, which is directly at odds with the district voting format sought by the NAACP lawsuit.
At-large voting allows county residents the chance to vote on all five commission seats, while district voting would limit residents to voting for just one commission seat: the one that corresponds with the commission district in which they live.
The NAACP has worked out a tentative settlement with the Fayette County Board of Education to adopt a new district map with district voting instead of at-large voting. That settlement has yet to be approved by the federal court judge assigned to the case.
The NAACP lawsuit lists the county commission and the board of education as co-defendants. If the commission does challenge the lawsuit, it could possibly delay the settlement to the point where it can’t be enacted in time for the new school board map and district voting to be enacted for the July election.
Qualifying for three school board posts and three county commission posts begins in three months, starting May 21.