NAACP map splits 11 of 36 Fayette voting precincts
Fayette Co. asks court to rule against ‘racial gerrymandering’
In the legal battle over how citizens are elected to Fayette County’s board of education and county commission, both sides are now sparring over the map proposed by the plaintiffs including the Fayette County and national branches of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
The NAACP’s proposed map splits some 11 of the county’s 36 existing precincts in order to create a new district that contains a majority black population among voting-age residents in that district, according to a filing by the NAACP and several local residents listed as plaintiffs in the case.
The new fifth “minority majority” district proposed by the NAACP would stretch all the way across the county to include black residents in both Tyrone and Fayetteville. In defense, the NAACP claims that Tyrone and Fayetteville residents “attend the same public schools, share places of worship and recreation, are patients of the same doctors, belong to the same civic, political and homeowners organizations, participate in fraternity and sorority events, shop together and advocate for district voting in Fayette County.”
The NAACP and plaintiffs are asking the court to enforce district voting in Fayette County in an effort to make it easier for a person of color to be elected to both the school board and the county commission.
District voting would be a sea-change from the current political process, at-large voting, which allows all residents to vote on all five seats for both the BoE and the county commission. District voting, in contrast, would limit residents to being able to vote for just one of the five seats on each board because their vote would be tied to a particular geographic district instead.
The Fayette County Commission has fought the lawsuit and has filed documents seeking summary judgment in the case based on the theory that the NAACP’s proposed district voting map was drawn almost exclusively based on race, splitting several precincts.
The NAACP, however, contends that its map expert did not commit racial gerrymandering when drawing the map.
The county contends the NAACP’s map creates a majority-minority district that is not sufficiently compact to meet federal requirements.
In response, the NAACP claims that its demographic expert took account of “non-racial factors ... including precinct and municipal boundaries, incumbency, school attendance zones, respecting the one-person, one-vote principle and compactness.”
According to court filings, the NAACP’s plan splits the Sandy Creek district as one example. But the NAACP contends that its proposed 5th District map follows “already existing political lines in Fayette County” for two-thirds of its perimeter.
The Hopeful and Dogwood precincts were split on the proposed map “to protect incumbents” according to the NAACP’s filing.
The Fayette County Board of Education has attempted to settle the lawsuit with a consent decree this spring, but that decree was overturned by the court shortly after it was adopted because the county commission, as a co-defendant in the lawsuit, had not approved of the settlement.
School board representatives have said they are trying to spend as little money as possible on the lawsuit given the school system’s recent financial straits.