NAACP asks judge for special 5th district vote

Plaintiffs seeking a special election this November to apply district voting to the Fayette County Commission and the Fayette County Board of Education are asking a federal judge to order the county’s elections director to provide dates and deadlines so such a special election could be accomplished.

The judge in the case has not yet decided whether he will order the county to conduct a special election this November for a newly-created fifth district seat on both the board of education and county commission as requested by the Fayette County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and 10 residents who are also plaintiffs in the case.

U.S. District Judge Timothy C. Batten also has yet to approve a district map that would create the fifth district, which is being specially drawn to include a majority of black voters to increase the likelihood that a black candidate is elected to the fifth district posts.

Batten’s ruling ordering district voting presents a big change for Fayette voters who are accustomed to voting on all five seats for the county commission and the board of education under the current at-large voting process. Under district voting, voters will only be allowed to cast a ballot for one of the five seats on each governing body: the seat corresponding to the geographical district the voter lives in.

Likewise, voters will further be limited from voting in a recall election or signing a recall petition for four of the five members of each governing body. Under Georgia law, a voter may only sign a recall petition and vote in a recall election for the elected officials in whose district they live.

Judge Batten is beginning the process of sorting out the differences in the proposed maps submitted in the case. The catch with the NAACP’s map is that it draws a fifth district without any incumbent, which NAACP attorneys contend is necessary for a complete cure of the matter.

If the fifth district is drawn to include incumbent members of the board of education and county commission, those incumbents would have “a material advantage” on election day, NAACP attorneys have said in a legal brief to the court.

The NAACP’s map puts county commission members Allen McCarty and David Barlow in the same First District and also puts board of education members Leonard Presberg and Barry Marchman in the same First District.

In legal filings, the county is asking the judge to allow the Georgia legislature to create a new map for the commission’s elections before engaging a technical advisor to help the court prepare a new map.

The Fayette County Board of Education has informed the court it is agreeable to the court’s wish to appoint an expert to assist in the analysis of the proposed maps. Attorneys for the NAACP and individual plaintiffs are not objecting to the appointment of the proposed expert, but have asked the court to guide the expert with “the redistricting principles that must guide the specialist’s assistance in helping to fashion a remedy” and also to require that specialist “to submit an affidavit, attesting to the specialist’s compliance with these principles.”