Advanced voting began Monday in Fayette County to fill a vacancy on the county commission created by the death of Vice Chair Pota Coston, the county’s first black county commissioner. The special election is set for September 15.
Three candidates are vying for the District 5 seat, which represents residents living mostly in the northeastern part of Fayette. The candidates are Angela Bean, 58, an independent contractor in the graphic arts field; Peyton W. Riley, 48, who works in the financial services industry, and Charles D. Rousseau, 54, retired from management positions with Fulton County government.
The special election is only open to residents who live in District 5.
District 5 is at the center of an four-year-old court fight between the county and the NAACP and a group of black Fayette residents who been arguing over the county’s method of electing candidates to the county school board and the county commission. Until last year when Coston was elected, no blacks had ever served on the county commission in Fayette’s 193-year existence. No black resident has yet to serve on the school board.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Batten Sr. recently ordered the county to use district voting - the same electoral method used to elect Coston - for the special election. The county and NAACP had clashed over how the special election would be conducted because the county felt it could use at-large voting since an appeals court had sent the case back to Batten for a trial. In 2013, Batten ruled that the at-large system was discriminatory and ordered a remedial plan that called for the creation of five voting districts, including one that is predominately minority. That is District 5. His plan did not include a remedy for handling special elections in the case of a county official’s death.
The trial starts the week of Nov. 16.
Meanwhile, District 5 residents can vote this week only at the county elections board, 140 Stonewall Ave. in Fayetteville. Voters will have an additional option during the following two weeks to vote at the Tyrone Town Hall, 881 Senoia Rd. There will be no voting on the weekends or on September 7, which is Labor Day. Early voting ends September 11.
Nine county precincts will be open to voters on September 15, the day of the special election for District 5.
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