Fayette Commission to appeal district voting

The Fayette County Commission will be filing its formal appeal of a federal judge’s decision in May 2013 to toss out at-large voting in favor of district voting, The Citizen learned Wednesday afternoon.

The switch to district voting, which is in effect for the current 2014 election season, means that residents can only vote for the commission and Board of Education post associated with the district in which they live. Previously voters could cast a ballot on all five posts for both governing bodies.

The district voting ruling from U.S. District Judge Timothy C. Batten concluded a lawsuit filed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which argued that black residents were unable to elect “the candidate of their choice” in previous county elections. The lawsuit argued that Fayette’s at-large voting format prevented any black candidate from winning election to the county commission or the board of education.

Batten instituted a district voting map that includes a specially-carved 5th District, drawn to include a voting age population consisting of more than 50 percent black voters.

While the district voting map wasn’t finalized until several weeks ago, Batten in May of last year issued an order declaring district voting the law of the land in Fayette County. However, no black candidate is on the ballot for the Post 5 Board of Education seat, as Democrat Leonard Presberg, the appointed incumbent, will face Republican challenger Dean Dutton in the November general election.

The Post 5 commission race did draw a black candidate, as Democratic challenger Pota Coston seeks to win the seat from incumbent commissioner Allen McCarty, who is a Republican. That race will also be settled in November’s general election.