ST. LOUIS — A federal court today ruled that the at-large electoral process used by Missouri’s Ferguson-Florissant School District dilutes the voting power of the African-American community, in violation of 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 court agreed that the current at-large system dilutes African-Americans’ voting power and undermines their voice in the political process. This ruling recognizes that voting in Ferguson-Florissant usually results in the election of candidates preferred by white voters only, and helps push back against decades of systemic racism,” said Julie Ebenstein, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.
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. Yet, over 40 years later, no more than two of seven school board members have been African-American prior to the ACLU filing this lawsuit — this in a district where African-Americans comprise nearly 80 percent of the student body. The area also suffers from severe patterns of racial inequality across a wide spectrum of other socioeconomic indicators, such as income and employment.
In its ruling, the court found that “there is a history of officially sanctioned discrimination in the region and the district, and that history is not just a distant memory.”
The lawsuit, Missouri NAACP v. Ferguson-Florissant School District, was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri in St. Louis.
“The ruling is an important step forward in addressing the long history of governmental policies in Missouri that have worked to disfavor communities of color in our elections, and our schools, housing, and employment,” said Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Missouri.
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