Fayette school board to appeal district voting

The Fayette County Board of Education in executive session at a March 14 called meeting voted 3-1 to appeal the recent federal court decision to require district voting in Fayette County.

A mid-February decision by U.S. District Judge Timothy Batten made district voting the law of the land in Fayette, setting aside the long-time at-large voting format.

Under district voting, Fayette residents will no longer be able to vote for all five posts on both the board of education and the county commission. Instead, voters will be restricted to casting ballots for just one post on each group: the one corresponding with the geographic district the voter lives in.

Batten’s ruling was the result of a lawsuit filed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) which claimed that at-large voting prevented black residents from electing the candidate of their choice.

The lawsuit specifically noted that no black candidate had ever been elected to the school board or the county commission. Several county residents were also listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

The school board’s vote was 3-1, with Leonard Presberg opposed and Bob Todd, Marion Key and Barry Marchman in favor of the motion to appeal.

Presberg prior to the vote said, “I couldn’t disagree more strenuously. I think this is a waste of money.”

Presberg said the lawsuit was one that “we lost every step of the way.”

Also speaking prior to the vote, Marchman said several candidates for the school board and Fayette County Commission during their campaigns said they would push back on the disenfranchisement of the voters if district voting was implemented.

“This is a promise kept, and I want to remind voters that their voice was heard,” Marchman said.

The new district map and district voting process ordered by the court is being used for this year’s elections.