Federal judge orders district voting in Fayette

Fayette County is about to get district voting for all five seats on both the Fayette County Commission and the Fayette County Board of Education.

County Commission Chairman Steve Brown, while expressing his astonishment that the federal judge brushed past a significant legal hurdle to find for the plaintiffs, said Tuesday afternoon that an appeal is not certain.

“We’ll meet with our attorney this week,” Brown said. “If she says she thinks we have a shot on appeal, then we’ll appeal. If she thinks we don’t, then we won’t.”

The net result of the judge’s ruling is almost certain to be that all Fayette residents will lose their right to vote for all five seats on both governing bodies. Instead they will be allowed to vote for only one county commissioner candidate and one board of education candidate.

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy C. Batten Sr. has ordered all parties in the case to submit “proposed remedial plans” for the next election cycle “on or before June 25, 2013.”
Batten’s Tuesday order grants summary judgment to the individual plaintiffs in the case along with the state conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who had argued that the county’s district voting process precluded black candidates from winning a seat on the county commission and board of education.

The judge’s order grants the plaintiff’s wish to create a district voting scenario, which is markedly different than the current at-large voting process. Currently, all Fayette voters are allowed to vote on all five seats on the county commission and board of education.

Under district voting, voters will be limited to choosing just one person for each governing body, depending on where each voter lives.

In his order, Batten determined that the current at-large voting process “essentially guarantees that no African-American will be elected to either board.”

While minority candidates have run in recent years for office on both the county commission and board of education, they have been unable to win acceptance of many voters beyond the precincts dominated by African-American electors.

Opponents of district voting have argued that those minority candidates were inferior to the ones who ultimately won office. Opponents also pointed out that Fayette County voters elected and re-elected an African-American lawyer as Magistrate Court Judge: Charles R. Floyd Jr., who remained in office until his untimely death several years ago.

In the order, Batten determines that even though the district voting map presented by the NAACP and the Fayette County Board of Education did not create a single district with a majority population of African-American voters, there was enough for him to determine that district voting was necessary under the federal Voting Rights Act.

“Here, it is undisputed that no African-American has ever been elected to the BOC (board of commissioners or BOE (board of education) and that voting in Fayette County is racially polarized in BOC and BOE elections,” Batten wrote. The judge added that the other legal factors weighed in the plaintiffs’ favor, too. “Thus, the Court is satisfied that “under the totality of the circumstances, [African-Americans in Fayette County are] denied meaningful access to the political process on account of race or color.”

The board of education in February 2012 attempted to settle the lawsuit with the NAACP by proposing a new map and adopting district voting. Although the court initially approved that settlement, the approval was rescinded after the Fayette County Commission objected. Batten later indicated that he was unaware the commission had not agreed to that settlement.

While district voting will limit the number of candidates a Fayette voter will be able to cast a ballot for, it will also make it more difficult for all Fayette voters to attempt a recall vote of an elected official. That’s because to recall a candidate, Georgia law requires that the citizens signing the recall petition, and those who are allowed to vote on the matter, be a voter in that particular district.

Fayette has had county-wide voting for most of its history; the county was created by the state legislature in 1821. At-large voting for what were then known as the commissioners of roads and revenues soon followed.

One wild card: The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a major voting rights law decision later this year. Some observers believe the court might invalidate parts of that law, including the part that became the basis for the lawsuit that the county just lost.

==========================

ADDED JUNE 3, 2013 —

Corrections

The NAACP has asked that two corrections be made to the May 22 story about district voting.

“First, you write: ‘In the order, Batten determines that even though the district voting map presented by the NAACP and the Fayette County Board of Education did not create a single district with a majority population of African-American voters, there was enough for him to determine that district voting was necessary under the federal Voting Rights Act.’

“On page 42 of the Court’s Order, Judge Batten refers to Plaintiffs’ expert ability to ‘achieve a district that has a voting-age African-American population of 50.22%.’ He goes on to conclude: ‘In sum, because Plaintiffs have shown that the African-American voting-age population is sufficiently large and geographically compact to constitute a majority-minority district in Fayette County, they have met the first prong of Gingles.’

“Second, you write: ‘One wild card: The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a major voting rights law decision later this year. Some observers believe the court might invalidate parts of that law, including the part that became the basis for the lawsuit that the county just lost.’

“You are referring to Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, a pending case that challenges Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, http://www.naacpldf.org/update/ldf-defends-section-5-voting-rights-act-u.... Section 5 is a distinct provision of the Voting Rights Act that is not at issue in this case.

“The Court’s Order relies on Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act to strike down Fayette County’s discriminatory at-large method of electing members to the County Board of Commissioners and Board of Education. Section 2 forbids the use of any electoral scheme, such as Fayette County’s at-large method, that “submerges” minority voters in a district — here, the County — that is controlled by the white majority. And Section 2 provides for the type of remedy that the Court’s ruling provides, i.e., a creation of single-member districts to replace an at-large method of election.” — Leah C. Aden, assistant counsel, Political Participation Group, NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (www.naacpldf.org).

SPQR
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renault

only if you have a mind to boggle.

renault314
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SPQR - is that a dig at me?

?

normeradams
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Federal judge orders district voting in Fayette

As a Fayette County resident of 30 years, I have always felt that the county wide elections for the Board of Commissioners and the School Board was unfair to minorities. Federal Judge Batten made the right decision to rule that county wide elections were unconstitutional. Using the logic that the Fayette County Commissioners used for years to defend their actions would have meant that we should have state-wide elections for our Congressmen and nation-wide elections for our Senators. Everyone can see the faulty logic in those propositions.

When 20% of our population is minority and most challenges to at-large voting in the past two decades have been ruled unconstitutional, it is time that we move on to allow everyone to have representation by their vote.

John Mrosek
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Fayette Voting Rights Case: Likelihood of an Appeal

The question of whether or not Fayette County could succeed in an appeal is an interesting one. Of the 12 Circuit Courts of Appeal, approximately 1/3 of their cases are federal criminal prisoners filing sentence review requests, prison condition complaints, standard appeals, etc. Overall, the 12 circuits affirm 91.4% of the cases below. The 11th Circuit is right there--- the 11th Circuit reverses cases only 8.9% of the time. That means that on average you have a 90% chance of losing on appeal. This same Judge Batten dismissed our Clean Water Act suit against Peachtree City stating that our pre-suit notice was insufficient, inviting us to send another notice and file suit again. Despite the 90% chance of losing on appeal we are going to go for it and have appealed. In response to our suit, the City has done a scant amount of the work required but insists on more foot dragging.

Back to the Voting Rights Act case. Commission Chair Steve Brown said he will consult with the lawyers to see what they think our chances are of winning on appeal. I would imagine that Steve will hear what he wants to hear. I am reminded of the scene in "Dumb and Dumber" when Jim Carey asks an attractive young lady "Is there a chance you could ever love me ?". She smirks back with "Yeah, there's a chance--- one in a billion." With this, Jim Carey is enthused. Steve Brown may be enthused with being told that there is only a 1 in 10 chance on appeal. Besides the Judge, it will be interesting to see who and what Steve criticizes.

Finally, the 11th Circuit will probably wait for the Supreme Court to rule on its Voting Rights Act case. The argument advanced in the Supreme Court is that the Voting Rights Act should be ended. The argument is that the historical goal of race equalization has been met and that the Voting Rights Act has, in essence, outdated its purpose. The 11th Circuit is the second busiest circuit, averaging over one case a day per judge. An opportunity to avoid ruling at all would be appealing.

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Baffling
normeradams wrote:

When 20% of our population is minority and most challenges to at-large voting in the past two decades have been ruled unconstitutional, it is time that we move on to allow everyone to have representation by their vote.

That is what has rubbed me wrong from day one. For some reason, due to skin color, black folks have completely different needs and desires from the rest of the county?

WHAT IS THE NEED FOR SPECIAL REPRESENTATION FOR BLACK CITIZENS? This concept is racist to an extreme. Its 2013 folks, we are all equal. The time has long passed to pay attention to the color of a person's skin. Fayette county has taken on so many new great citizens that happen to be black. I have always assumed they came here for the same reason my family did. What is the need for special representation then?

This stuff makes me sick. In a progressive and enlightened world, skin color doesn't mean a thing. This is a step back in time when your skin color means you are different.

renault314
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Judge uses racist logic for decision
normeradams wrote:

it is time that we move on to allow everyone to have representation by their vote.

Dude, minorities have been allowed to vote for a long time. Try to keep up. If however, what you meant by that statement was that minorities deserve to only be represented by people of their color, you are an idiot, just like the judge. This entire suit brought by the NAACP is racist on its face. In order for the lawsuit to make ANY SENSE AT ALL, you have to assume from the outset that no minority would ever vote for a white candidate and that no white would ever vote for a minority. Hence the need to create a majority minority voting bloc. If you concede for just one second, that even in a majority minority voting bloc a white candidate could still be elected, by convincing the people in that district that they will represent their children well, then the whole point to district voting evaporates. It only exist to gurantee that a minority will get elected to the council every time, by assuming that minorities only vote for other minorities. I would never have thought this to be the case, but apparently the NAACP knows minorities better than I do, so who am I to say?

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The Shoe on the Other Foot

If the shoe was on the other foot, I would bet that the present majority if they were minority would be screaming to have representation by having a district vote.

tikigod
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Wrong

No, because I don't care what the color of someone's skin is. If anyone supports excellent schools, honor the land use plan, fight crime, and attract positive development to the county I would vote for them.

See, I'm not a racist. I could care less what someone looks like. But apparently there are groups out there that pay more attention to one's skin color than content of their character.

Those people / groups are inherently racist. There is no other logical way to look at it.

Davids mom
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tikigod
Quote:

If anyone supports excellent schools, honor the land use plan, fight crime, and attract positive development to the county I would vote for them.

Are you saying that persons of color don't want the same thing? Of course those who reside in Fayette County do! They who live in an area where they are represented by almost 50% of the population just want to have a say in who represents them. I guess Fayetteville is different from some other areas in the county. No one seemed to have a problem voting for Mr. Johnson - and I haven't heard any complaints. If I lived in the area that he represented -(if the election required District residence) - I would vote for him. There are other community leaders of color that I have met that I would vote for if they decided to run - and my neighbors who may have a different skin color - would vote for them too. We would have a choice. I'm sorry, but this, to me, is a last gasp at 'white' supremacy. And adding one person of color (or a Democrat) will not drastically change FC in 2013.

It's too easy to say "I'm not a racist" - but refuse to see the others desire for meaningful representation. And I bet if Mr. Presberg decides to run for the District seat - he will be elected. Why not? He has withstood attacks on his religious beliefs, his political beliefs, and still has done a creditable job as leader of the BOE. IMO.

PTC Observer
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DM - Are you serious?

Mr. Presberg has been running since he was appointed.

Care to elaborate on the "creditable job" assertion? I would just like to hear your thoughts on this. What specifically has he accomplished that has been so creditable as a leader? He must give some fine speeches I guess?

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PTCO

If we have District voting - an individual's opinion of anyones qualifications really doesn't matter - that person will be elected by the citizens of that District. I have a feeling that Mr. Presberg has support in that District. Personally, I feel Mr. Presberg has been able to accomplish what previous leaders could not: Sell Rivers;
I've never heard him 'speak'. Actually, with the arrival of the 'movie studio' and the college - we will probably have to build another school in the future. . .hope we elect people with vision.

kcchiefandy
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How awesome, DM!

He dumped a property at a 50% loss by taking advantage of a convenient business deal across the street! Yea! He's a genius! As you said, if Pinewood prompts a building spree in that area then he just cost the county another $10 million to re-build what was just given away. I guess that was one of the incentives to get them here - 1 cheap building for offices, etc...probably a day care for their employees, too...

I guess hopefully property taxes will go up w/ the infusion of these 'Pinewooders' to make up the difference...

Davids mom
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Well KC

it looks like I was wrong about Presberg selling Rivers. They'll just have to blame that transaction/event on some other 'leader'. Thanks.

Quote:

I guess hopefully property taxes will go up w/ the infusion of these 'Pinewooders' to make up the difference...

You're not alone on that one!!!! (Property values + more income from property owners)

G35 Dude
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Nobody sold Rivers

Nobody sold Rivers. When Pinewood came to Fayette looking for a place to build a new studio and settled on that location Rivers was just swept up in the frenzy.

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@ DM

Really? You feel that Leo has done what previous leaders couldn't? He sold Rivers? He? By himself? Wow. I guess he is pretty awesome!

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Dr Todd

Was the one that had been pushing to sell it for sometime and prob the one that found someone. He is the one I asked from time to time about it.

Pressburg was appointed and I've never heard that he tried to sell Rivers,

Pressburg was/is? a Smolite.

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Wildcat

I guess he's a good salesman, the sold Rivers and DM too!

Personally, I just don't see the leadership with Mr. Presberg.

Husband and Fat...
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PTCO

What leadership do you see in:

Marchman:

Bacallao:

Todd:

Key:

Is see Ms. Key doing an outstanding job along working with Mr. Colwell. A good leader, leads, and she is doing just that. Discussing issues behind the scences and obtaining a consensus without finger pointing or sticking it to the past members.

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normeradams

So what would be the downside for statewide congressional voting?

normeradams
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Downside

Do you want someone in Savannah Georgia voting for who represents me in North Georgia. I think not. The issues that we face in suburbia is different that those of rural agricultural Georgia. Representation is just that, representing my interests and values.

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normadams

"Representation is just that, representing my interests and values".

So...what are the interests and values that Blacks in Fayette County have that are different from Whites? Seems to me the only real differences are in the cultures, not the races....most Blacks tend to vote for Liberals/Progressives, while most Whites tend to vote for Conservatives....so why are Black Liberals more apt to represent Blacks better than White Liberals?...seems that the PC crowd is at work here....again....and since most Liberal Whites do not have much common sense or judgement...I see on reason why Liberal Blacks would be any better...

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District Voting

Fayette County is constantly lauded for having one of the best school districts in the state. One could argue that it is in no small part due to our at-large voting process that allows intelligent voters to vote only for the best candidates.

One only has to look to the counties to the north to see what happens when district voting is introduced. Little, dysfunctional fiefdoms are built and before you know it, the schools have lost their accredidation.

Let's see if the people that pushed for this change truly "embrace the diversity of the county" and vote in perhaps a hispanic, asian, or white board member. If they don't, then they are just a bunch of hypocritical racists.

Robert W. Morgan
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I 'm with Brown on this one

The Citizen picked the wrong quote from Chairman Brown. While it was certainly a relief to see he planned to follow the county attorney's advice regarding an appeal, that was not the most important thing he said. This is:

"At best, a district would yield 47 percent minority voting power, Brown said.
“He (Batten) literally admitted in the opinion that he could not come up with a majority-minority district. It was kind of odd because it’s very clear what you need to prove to show that you have any kind of discriminatory activity. That was never proven.”

That may be the basis for an appeal right there - the judge is ordering us to do something that can't be done. Won't stand up, but if we are determined to appeal just to say we did - that's the way to go. And in reality a district can be created using good old fashioned gerrymandering techniques. Just consult with the Dems in Mass. that created Barney Frank's Congressional District. Or maybe in GA those that created a district for Cynthia McKinney or Hank Johnson.
By the way, is that the purpose of this lawsuit from the NAACP - to get someone on the Board of Commissioners with the intellect of Cynthia or Hank? Or is it strictly skin color, in which case we (or they) get to choose from the many qualified black candidates that live in that district.

Either way, I'm fine with it. Just go through the motions of an appeal so you don't get backlash from the bigoted rednecks next election and move on. I wonder which of the existing commissioners live in that majority-minority district - he's probably toast.

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No reason to look elsewhere RWM

Massachusetts notwithstanding, the 2011 redrawn districts in GA are as clear an example of gerrymandering as has been seen anywhere. Not disputing your points re Democratic map redraws, just saying both sides do the same thing to either hold or increase power.

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District vs At Large Voting

OK, can we devise a way to only allow those elected to only vote on issues that affect their District and not the whole county? NO? Then I want to be able to vote for all 5 BOE members or Commissioners!

Robert W. Morgan
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District voting not logical, but who cares about that nowadays

Sure enough, it certainly makes sense that if these commissioners are elected to run the whole county then they should be elected by the whole county. That's logical and obvious, but not good enough for the NAACP. The very obvious hybrid solution - candidates must live in the district but entire county votes for them - is also logical, but even that's not good enough for the NAACP or this activist, liberal judge so we are now being forced into Plan C.

Logic has no place in today's world. Everything is upside down and for some unknown reason the NAACP is still allowed to spew its racist hatred of all things whitey in order to prove some point about slavery or Jim Crow. Sure, those things were bad but is it not time to stop beating that drum and move on with some semblance of tolerance since the pendulum has certainly swung way to the other side.

So I say sure, Fayette County - unlevel the playing field a little bit more. Do everything we can to get a black face in the next commissioner's official photo op. No problem at all. Then let's judge him on the content of his character or the way he governs or how much trouble he causes or what he does to embarrass the community same as we do our whitebread pols and then reelect or reject. That seem fair enough, does it not? Then when the black face gets replaced by a brown face or a yellow face or God forbid a white face, then no one has the right to complain. Or do one?

Meanwhile which of our current commissioners has to step aside to allow this overreach of racial tolerance to occur? Who lives in that new district?

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