ST. LOUIS — A federal appeals court today ruled that the at-large electoral process used by Missouri’s Ferguson-Florissant School District violates the Voting Rights Act. The American Civil Liberties Union brought the lawsuit on behalf of the Missouri NAACP and several African American parents and residents.
“The courts have ruled yet again that the Ferguson-Florissant school district’s election system illegally dilutes African American voting power,” said Julie Ebenstein, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “The decision takes another step toward dismantling systematic bias in local elections, and ensuring that all communities’ interests are equally represented.”
In its ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit found the “evidence amply supports” the district court’s conclusion that “given the extent to which African Americans in FFSD continue to experience the effect of discrimination, their ability to participate in the political process is impacted.”
The Ferguson-Florissant area has a long history of racial discrimination. The school district itself was created by a 1975 federal desegregation order intended to remedy the effects of discrimination against African American students.
“We presented strong evidence that the election scheme operates to dilute the votes of black voters and today’s ruling vindicates the district court’s careful factual analysis based on complex evidence,” said Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri. “We must remain vigilant about the voting rights of the people and continue removing artificial barriers that prevent communities of color from having the same opportunity as white voters to elect candidates that will be responsive to them.”
The lawsuit is Missouri NAACP v. Ferguson-Florissant School District.
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