Fayette hits ‘racial map’ drawn by NAACP
The latest dispute in the district voting lawsuit is whether or not a new county commission district map proposed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was drawn solely for racial reasons or if other factors were considered by the demographer who created it.
The NAACP contends the map was not created based solely on race, but attorneys representing the Fayette County Commission contend that a deposition of the NAACP’s expert demographer show he did not include other considerations in developing the map as required by law.
The NAACP filed the federal lawsuit late last year in an effort to force the county commission and board of education seats to be chosen by a district voting process. Under district voting, residents would be allowed to choose just one of the five representatives to each governing body, based on whichever geographic district they live in.
That is a significant change from the current electoral process for the county commission and board of education, in which every voter can cast a vote on all five seats of each governing body.
The NAACP insists that district voting, and the subsequent creation of a majority-minority district, is the only way to allow black residents of Fayette County the opportunity to elect “the candidate of their choice.”
The majority-minority fifth district proposed by the NAACP stretches out over 11 of the county’s 36 voting precincts between parts of Fayetteville, Tyrone and unincorporated north Fayette County. In doing so, the map splits eight of those 11 precincts in a process that the county claims was “racial in nature.”
“Plaintiffs’ failure to explain the boundaries of district 5 by any non-racial standard in the face of the facts raised by county defendants leads to the inescapable conclusion that the district was drawn primarily on race,” county attorneys wrote in a recent legal filing.
Just one of those eight precinct splits happened to account for the residency of an incumbent commissioner, county attorneys claim.
“This complete lack of justification for most of the precinct splits is stunning in light of the undisputed (and unrebutted) testimony ... that every precinct split by William S. Cooper (the NAACP’s demographer) specifically includes areas with concentrations of African American population while systematically excluding areas with higher white population,” county attorneys wrote in a Oct. 18 legal filing.
The county also accuses the NAACP’s demographer of drawing the map without relying on municipal boundaries, school attendance zones and the location or attendance patterns for churches or civic organizations beyond the NAACP.
“The only community of interest to which Cooper paid any attention was a racial one, relying on his perception of the unity of the black population in the county,” county attorneys wrote.
The NAACP disputes that contention, claiming in a brief that Cooper also considered precinct and municipal boundaries, school attendance zones, the one person one vote principle and a requirement that the majority-minority district be geographically compact.
The NAACP contends that race was not the only factor used in creating the proposed fifth district for the county commission map which would have a majority minority with 50.22 percent of the voting-age population constituted of black voters.
The NAACP’s map “would provide the county’s black residents with an opportunity, for the first time in history, to elect their preferred candidate to the board of commissioners,” NAACP attorneys wrote in an Oct 18 court filing.
NAACP attorneys also claim that district voting, combined with racially-polarized voting, “has prevented a black candidate from ever winning an election to either of these boards.”
“The reality in Fayette County is that participation for blacks on the board of commissioners (and board of education) is foreclosed under the current at-large electoral method,” NAACP attorneys claim.