Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Judge halts school board elections in Ferguson-Florissant, saying they're stacked against black voters | Education | stltoday.com

Judge halts school board elections in Ferguson-Florissant, saying they're stacked against black voters | Education | stltoday.com:

Judge halts school board elections in Ferguson-Florissant, saying they're stacked against black voters

A federal judge has barred the Ferguson-Florissant School District from conducting school board elections, ruling that the current political process is stacked against African-American voters.
U.S. District Judge Rodney W. Sippel said that while he does not see evidence of intentional discrimination, there is a more subtle “complex interaction” of political processes that deter black voters from electing the candidates of their choice.
“Rather, it is my finding that the cumulative effects of historical discrimination, current political practices, and the socioeconomic conditions present in the District impact the ability of African-Americans in (the school system) to participate equally in Board elections,” the judge concluded in a 119-page ruling issued Monday.
The Ferguson-Florissant district serves about 11,200 students in parts of 11 municipalities. About 80 percent of those students are black, and 12 percent are white. District residents are nearly evenly split between black and white.
The ruling states that the election system is in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“As a result, the Court enjoins Defendants from conducting any elections for the District’s Board until a new system may be properly implemented,” the judge ruled.
The ruling calls for a status conference on Friday to discuss a “remedies briefing schedule” to further address the matter. The court’s decision applies only to the Ferguson-Florissant district.
Julie Ebenstein, the ACLU attorney who argued the case, said one possible remedy would be to do away with or curtail the use of at-large elections, in which candidates for school board must win the support of voters across the entire school system. Such a system may be stacked against blacks.
Imagine, she said, a district with 10 open school board seats. If 70 percent of voters are white and 30 percent are black, and people vote along racial lines, it’s possible that nearly all the seats on the board could be filled by white candidates.
Ebenstein said a possible approach may be to also have candidates run in specific geographic areas of the school district. That way, she said, black candidates might be more likely to prevail in areas with a higher concentration of black voters.

Voting patterns

All other school districts in the state, except Kansas City, have at-large school board elections, said Missouri School Boards Association spokesman Brent Ghan.
While the ruling could lead to other voting methods in Ferguson-Florissant, Missouri law would have to change in order to alter Judge halts school board elections in Ferguson-Florissant, saying they're stacked against black voters | Education | stltoday.com:

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