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Black candidate can win county-wide

District voting — the Fayette County chapter of the NAACP argued for it, and last week a federal judge supported their request.Lawsuit supporters felt it was the only way a black preferred candidate could be elected to a countywide position on the Board of Education (BOE) or Board of Commissioners (BOC).

 Supporters frequently point to district voting of U.S. Congress members as justification for their cause, but given the ineffectiveness and reputation of that institution, I question whether that argument is for or against their position.

I certainly support the one man, one vote principle, and that all voices should be heard. I do not agree that district voting is required to achieve that in Fayette County. Here, I believe that a black (or other minority) candidate can win a countywide election.

To do so requires a few fundamentals that apply just as well to white and other race candidates:

• Be a citizen of integrity, with the ability to understand complex public issues, listen to different sides of an issue, form logical conclusions, and coordinate and implement solutions.

• Develop better ideas to confront challenges than your opponent does.

• Communicate your message to voters and inspire their participation on primary/election day.

With the imposition of district voting, we won’t have an opportunity to validate that belief, though; blacks have only participated in about a half dozen BOE and BOC races over the past ten years, and black voter participation was less than 20 percent in one example in the lawsuit that was touted as a clear example of white voter dilution.

No black candidates emerged for the recent 2012 election, where six combined BOE and BOC seats were up for grabs (and five were taken by political newcomers).

As in any large-scale process, it’s not all bad or all good. District proponents welcome the likelihood of reduced campaign costs and chances for a BOE and BOC member to be elected only by voters in their district.

Others recoil at losing their right to vote for all the members who set property tax rates, recommend sales tax increases, decide how money is spent, and what policies are adopted for children’s education. They are also concerned that members elected solely by district voters will subordinate county priorities for job security.

Where to go from here? Is there a process that maximizes the strengths and minimizes the faults of both voting plans? Atlanta City Council, for example, has 12 members elected by district and three elected at large. That provides at least some opportunity for at-large members to support coalitions for beneficial citywide programs and withhold support from those they deem too parochial.

When the lawsuit was addressed during public comment at the May 23, 2013 County Commission meeting, about a half dozen citizens urged the commissioners to accept the ruling without appealing it. Only one citizen rose to point out concerns with district voting.

When considering an appeal, the BOE and BOC members will also have to weigh whether the appeal authority would draw a different conclusion than the ruling judge did.

If you have an opinion, contact a BOC and/or BOE member; I’ll see you at the polls!

Bob Ross
16-year Fayette County resident
Peachtree City, Ga.



Last year Mr. Ross championed the Constitutional amendment to circumvent locally elected school boards by the creation of a bureaucratic committee answerable to no one but the governor to make charter school decisions. Now he advises on district vs. at-large voting in the county. Why not just be consistent and allow the governor to make all of our local decisions? Mr. Ross apparently believes that the citizens are far too intellectually limited to govern themselves, black or white.

Citizen Bob's picture

Under the GA Constitutional amendment, the authority to make the most fundamental charter school decision- whether a child attends such a school or remains enrolled in it- lies at the the most fundamental level- the parents (not the governor or even the local school board).

R.J. Ross

Your "clarification" constitutes a red herring. What you identify as "the most fundamental charter school decision" is completely contingent upon the creation of that charter school in the first place. Without the options, parents cannot exercise any decision. You tout appointed government bureaucrats over locally elected officials to make the initially enabling decision. This position is totally inconsistent with your self-identified tea party affiliation

Truth is stranger than fiction!

I certainly hope that Fayette County joins on to the concept of District Voting. When I first moved to Peachtree City, and was somewhat take aback when I noticed that At-Large was the norm. There are many reasons to support the concept of district voting, and none against it, in my opinion, for a plebiscite on the scale of Fayette County. In my entire 24 years in Peachtree City, I worked to garner support for district voting. I moved out of Peachtree City, the State of Georgia, and back to California a few years ago. I read the Citizen now and then, and keep track of your situation, and keep hoping that my former city casts off some of the trappings of provincialism. Now that you seem to be on the right track, please accept it and move forward.

Juan Matute
Former resident of Peachtree City

You moved away and now you want to tell us how to vote on local issues.

The problem is it wasn't a vote we are discussing, it was a Federal MANDATE by a Judge (who doesn't care one whit about Fayette) brought on by the NAACP. Apparently there aren't any other Counties in Georgia with pressing issues they need to address.

That said, the Tahoe area is beautiful.

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