NAACP, black Fayette residents seek court’s aid to stop at-large voting

The NAACP and a group of black Fayette County residents have gone to court to stop the county from using at-large voting to elect the successor of the first black commissioner who recently died.

The civil rights group filed the preliminary injunction late Friday, just days after the county elections board voted to use at-large voting to fill Commissioner Pota Coston’s seat. Coston died July 3 of cancer.

At-large voting has been at the center of a three-year legal fight between the county and the NAACP which says the voting system keeps blacks from being able to get elected to the county commission and school board. Coston became the first black commissioner in the county’s nearly 200-year history after a federal judge’s 2013 order replaced at-large voting with district voting. Few communities in the South still rely on at-large voting to elect politicians.

The NAACP’s brief asks the court to preserve the status quo – which is district-based voting, the electoral method used in three elections in 2014.

But district voting is up in the air now since an appeals court sent the case back to the lower court for a trial. A trial date has not been set yet.

County officials have said they had no choice but to use at-large voting based on local laws. The voting rights lawsuit does not provide a remedy for replacing an elected official who dies in office.

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