Judge Bans School Board Elections, Alleges Racism

Normandy High School students make their way up the street after the dismissal of school as the drama of the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson on August 9 in Ferguson, MO, plays itself out on Friday, August 22, 2014, in Wellston, MO.  Normandy is a statistically troubled high school that graduated Michael Brown. The school has the difficult task of raising young black males in an area notorious for racial profiling and unequal treatment at the hands of law enforcement.
(Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

The Ferguson-Florissant School District in Missouri has been banned from holding school board elections – because enough black board members may not be elected.

A federal judge claims the “current political process is stacked against African-American voters,” even though there is no evidence of intentional discrimination.

U.S. District Judge Rodney  W. Sippel stated in a 119-page ruling Monday, “It is my finding that the cumulative effects of historical discrimination, current political practices, and the socioeconomic conditions present in the District impact the ability of African-Americans in (the school system) to participate equally in Board elections.”

The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported that 80 percent of the students in the Ferguson-Florissant school district are black, out of 11,200 students.   But the district residents are split evenly between black and white.

Therefore, the judge’s ruling says the election system is “in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965” and that the school is banned from holding any elections until they get a new system in place.

ACLU attorney Julie Ebenstein, who had pushed the case, suggested a remedy would be to do away with “at large” elections, as she claims that system is stacked against blacks.   Instead, the election should be split up in geographic areas, where “black candidates might be more likely to prevail in areas with a higher concentration of black voters.”

Cindy Ormsby, lawyer for the school district, said the at-large voting system “works best for African-American representation,” and pointed out that three of the current seven board members are African-American.

Also, black candidates have won seats on the board in each of the past three years.

The judge insists the voting process is “racially polarized.”



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