Ga. County Accused of |Voting Rights Violations

     (CN) – The Georgia NAACP and Association of Latino Elected Officers are among the plaintiffs in a lawsuit accusing Gwinnett County, Georgia of voting rights violations when it comes to the district boundaries for local elections.
     In a complaint filed in the Atlanta Federal Court on Monday, the plaintiffs, which also include several registered voters, claim the district maps for the Gwinnett County Board of County Commissioners and Board of Education violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by diluting minority votes.
     The plaintiffs say the maps, coupled with a pattern of racially polarized voting in Georgia’s second-most populous county, have deprived blacks, Latinos and Asian-Americans the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice.
     According to the lawsuit, those communities comprise nearly 43 percent of the voting age population in the county, which is a suburb of Atlanta.
     “Remarkably, Gwinnett County, Georgia is the most racially diverse county in the southeastern United States, yet no minority candidate has ever won election to the County Board of Commissioners or Board of Education,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which is representing the plaintiffs.
     “This case is about political power and the exclusion of racial minorities from key elected positions in the county. This exclusion is directly attributable to the discriminatory configuration of district maps and racially polarized voting, in violation of the Voting Rights Act. Through this lawsuit we seek to ensure that Gwinnett County government reflects the racial diversity of the community that it serves,” Clarke said during a conference call with reporters.
     Also representing the plaintiffs are the Washington, D.C. office of Crowell and Moring LLP and Atlanta-based attorney Brian Sutherland of Buckley Beal, LLP, all of whom are acting as pro bono counsel.
     The stated in the complaint, the current board of education district map assigns approximately 74.4 percent of the black, Latino and Asian-American vote to a single election district, splitting the balance of the minority vote across four other districts where blacks, Latinos and Asian-Americans do not constitute a majority of the population.
     Similarly, the current Board of Commissioners’ districting plan unnecessarily divides blacks, Latino and Asian-American voters among four single-member districts, preventing them from combining to form a majority in any district, the complaint says.
     The plaintiffs want the board of education districts re-drawn to include a second majority-minority district. They also want two majority-minority board of county commission districts to be created to give the minority community a fairer chance of electing candidates of their choice.
     Joe Sorenson, spokesman for Gwinnett County, said in an emailed statement Monday, “We are not in a position to comment on this litigation.”
     “Our attorneys will be reviewing the lawsuit that has been filed in Federal Court but not yet served on Gwinnett County. After thorough review, attorneys will brief the Board of Commissioners and the Board of Registrations and Elections,” he said.

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