ST. LOUIS (CN) - The Ferguson, Mo. school district's at-large system for school board elections discriminates against black voters, the NAACP claims in Federal Court.
The Missouri conference of the NAACP and three members sued the Ferguson-Florissant School District and the St. Louis County Board of Elections Commissioners on Thursday, claiming the at-large election system violates the federal Voting Rights Act by diluting African-American voting strength.
The Ferguson-Florissant School District is one of the largest school districts in the St. Louis area, spanning multiple municipalities. The plaintiffs claim that though 79 percent of its student body is African-American, only one member of the seven-member school board is African-American, due to the at-large electoral system.
African-Americans, however, are a minority of the school district's voting age population. The plaintiffs say the system systematically prohibits them from electing candidates of their choice.
Two of the individual plaintiffs say they live in areas "that could constitute single-member districts in which African Americans are a majority of the voting age population, and where African Americans could elect their preferred candidates if the elections were not held at-large."
The executive director of the ACLU of Missouri said the lawsuit is meant to address "racial inequities in our education system that will affect not only Ferguson, but all of Missouri." The NAACP is represented by the ACLU in the lawsuit.
Plaintiff Redditt Hudson is a former police officer whose daughters are students in the school district.
"We've seen African-Americans excluded from making decisions that affect our children," Hudson said in a statement. "We need to be able to advocate for an education that will put our kids first, and not political agendas."
The NAACP seeks declaratory judgment that the at-large voting system violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, and an injunction.
Its lead plaintiff is ACLU attorney Anthony Rothert.
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