Fayette County, NAACP Enter Mediation In Voting Rights Suit

Oct 21, 2015

Fayette County officials are set to meet with the NAACP on Wednesday in an attempt to settle a lengthy voting rights fight.

Earlier this month, Atlanta U.S. District Judge Timothy Batton ordered the parties into mediation with Georgia State University law dean Steven Kaminshine. The two parties are scheduled to meet at 9 a.m.

Both the Fayette Board of Commissioners and the NAACP declined to comment, citing the meeting. A meeting with the Fayette County Board of Education, which was also named in the suit, was scheduled for earlier this week.

Fayette Chamber of Commerce President Carlotta Ungaro says the business group is hoping for a resolution.

“We're concerned that it continues to put Fayette County in a negative light regionally, and even potentially nationally,” Ungaro says.

At issue is how the county elects its leaders.

In 2011, the national, state and county chapters of the NAACP sued the Fayette Board of Commissioners and Board of Education. They allege Fayette's at-large voting method is racially discriminatory and that district voting would be more equitable.

Two years ago, Batton ordered the county to implement district voting and to create a minority district, ruling the at-large method prevented black voters from choosing a candidate of their choice, WABE previously reported. That move led to the election of Pota Coston, the first African-American commissioner in the county’s history, but she died a few months into her term.

County officials appealed Batton’s decision, and the appeals court sent the case back to trial court. With no legal resolution upon Coston’s death, the county argued it could return to the at-large voting method to fill her seat in a special election.  

As WABE previously reported, African-Americans make up 21 percent of Fayette County's population, according to recent census data. Before district voting, no black candidate had ever been elected to the Board of Commissioners or Board of Education. 

A trial date is set for mid-November if no resolution is reached.