NAACP President suggests county ‘conspiracy’ to discriminate against black residents by ignoring pleas for district voting
The federal judge who will be adopting a new district map for countywide elections for the Fayette County Commission and the Fayette County Board of Education, perhaps as early as this November, plans to get expert help from state redistricting officials.
The new map is necessary to comply with a May 21 order from U.S. District Judge Timothy C. Batten forcing a switch in election formats for both governing bodies from at-large to district voting. Batten last week ordered attorneys for all parties in the lawsuit to have their say on his wish to appoint state redistricting officials as his “expert” to evaluate the proposed district maps.
The Fayette County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which filed the lawsuit along with several individual residents who are plaintiffs, has submitted a map that creates a majority-minority district that excludes all current board members in a bid to create a fifth district seat that has no incumbent. If the court were to adopt that map, conceivably one of the current five county commissioners and one of the five current board of education members would be removed from their post and, in effect, out of a job because their home was drawn out of the fifth district.
The switch to district voting means that residents will no longer have the ability to vote for all five seats on both the county commission and the board of education. Instead, residents will only be limited to voting for just one post on each board: the post which corresponds with the geographic district of the county they live in.
The county contends the map adopted by the court should be drawn to include incumbent commissioners in the fifth district. On the NAACP-submitted map, the fifth district lines come close to but exclude the homes owned by County Commissioner Allen McCarty and Board of Education members Leonard Presberg and Barry Marchman.
The NAACP argues that the incumbent-less fifth district is needed to prevent incumbents who would have “a material advantage” on election day as opposed to any challenger in a potential special election.
To resolve the impasse over the differences between the two maps, Judge Batten is proposing to appoint the Legislative and Congressional Office of the General Assembly for redistricting services.