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County to fight NAACP voting lawsuit?

It appears the Fayette County Commission will fight the district voting lawsuit filed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The commission next week will vote on one of two new commission district maps, both of which would retain at-large voting for all commission seats. The NAACP suit wants to eliminate at-large voting in favor of district voting.

Under at-large voting, every voter in the county can vote for each commission seat, regardless of where they live. With district voting, voters would only be able to vote for one of the five commission seats, based on which geographical commission district they live in.

The NAACP claims the district voting format will allow black residents a more fair opportunity to seek elected office.

Of the two maps that are up for consideration, one creates five separate commission districts. The other, proposed by Commissioner Steve Brown, would retain the current format of three districts, leaving the other two commission positions available for any qualifying resident of the county regardless of where they live.

(Scroll to the bottom of the story for links to the maps, which are in a high-resolution PDF format.)

Both proposals would keep at-large voting for all five commission seats. As part of his three-district plan, Brown is advocating for one of the at-large seats to be dedicated to a chairman, which means county residents would elect the chairman in lieu of the current process whereby the commission votes on its chairman each year.

The announcement was made at Thursday’s commission meeting after the board met for more than 45 minutes with the law firm that is consulting the county on the NAACP lawsuit.

There is a looming deadline in a few weeks for the county to file the maps with the legislature so the maps can be approved in time to be enacted for this year’s election cycle.

Discussion about the upcoming map vote was added to the agenda in part so the public could be informed of the decision to be made by the commission next week, according to County Attorney Scott Bennett.

That’s a stark change from the way the Fayette County Board of Education handled its 3-2 vote to settle the lawsuit Jan. 9.

While the settlement document was dated Dec. 15, the settlement was added to the Jan. 9 BoE’s website earlier that same day.

Voting for the settlement were school board members Leonard Presberg, Janet Smola and Terri Smith. Voting no were Marion Key and Bob Todd.

The county commission has hired a law firm which specializes in Voting Rights Act cases: Strickland Brockington Lewis LLP. The school board, however, decided to use its appointed attorney, Phil Hartley, instead.



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