At Issue: Fayette County debates district vs. at-large voting

Last week we reported that Nov. 4 marked the first Election Day in Fayette County history in which county commission and school board races were decided using district rather than at-large voting. Two of the seats up for grabs this year were in District 5, which has a majority minority composition. Democrat Pota Coston defeated Republican incumbent county commissioner Allen McCarty and will become the first black woman in county history to serve in that post. Incumbent Board of Education member Leonard Presberg, also a Democrat in District 5, was re-elected. Republican Diane Basham defeated Democrat Ogechi Oparah for the District 4 school board seat. Voter turnout was 61 percent.

Fayette County is still in court challenging a judge’s ruling that at-large voting violates the federal Voting Rights Act. We asked Fayette residents whether the new system made them feel better or less represented in county government.

Here are some replies:

“How could I possibly be ‘more represented’ when the NAACP and a federal judge have taken away 80 percent of my vote? The difference in Fayette County was never ‘race,’ it was conservative vs. liberal or Republican vs. Democrat. This was the way they chose to obtain what they could not achieve when we all had a voice in our representation.” — Peter Pfeifer

“As a long time resident of Fayette County, who happens to be white, and lives in District 5, district voting is right for Fayette County, democracy and representative government. Those who would argue for at-large voting, would never argue for at-large national voting for their U.S Congressman and Senator. The majority always wants to find ways to stay in power. If the majority was the minority, they would be screaming against at-large voting and for district voting for their district commissioners. To lose any power is always threatening.” — Normer Adams

“For 193 years Fayette County has used at-large voting, even after the county was split four ways in 1858. This voting method gives each citizen a vote or say in the election of all the county commission and school board members. Now, an activist, non-elected judge, Judge Batten, wants to change 193 years of history, this to appease the NAACP. Also, the federal Voting Rights Act needs to be repealed. It only applies to mostly Southern states as a punishment. All laws should apply to EVERY citizen equally. The Fayette County government should fight this all the way to the Supreme Court, with no compromise.” — Curtis Wagner

“Yes, district voting is right and good for Fayette County! The results of the Fayette County election under the district voting system proved that premise. One, Fayette County had the highest voter turnout of any county in Georgia. Two, district voting evidently encouraged voter participation as 61 percent of Fayette’s registered voters turned out.

Pota Coston, the African-American candidate won in District 5 with 67 percent of the vote. This bodes well for Fayette County’s having diversity on the Board of Commissioners. The voters in District 5 finally were able to elect a person of their choice to represrnt them.

Thank you Judge Batten!” — Dan Lowry

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