At Issue: Should Fayette County settle its voting lawsuit?

Word of a possible settlement in the lawsuit regarding district voting in Fayette County heated up the Oct. 6 Board of Commissioners meeting, but county officials have denied a deal is imminent. Lawyers for the commission and the Board of Education are due in federal court Nov. 16 opposite the NAACP over whether Fayette’s longstanding at-large voting system disfranchises the county’s minority population, which is primarily concentrated in the northern District 5.

The court case was scheduled after the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in January that U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Batten, who issued an initial ruling overturning at-large voting, had to conduct a full trial.

However, based on the more than $1 million taxpayer cost of litigation and the fact that 125 of Georgia’s 159 counties already use district voting, pressure to settle has been been building.

Peachtree City co-founder Joel Cowan and real estate developer Jim Pace placed a large ad in a Fayette newspaper, stating, “We believe it is time for the parties to this lawsuit to sit down and work on implementing a district-based solution … to bring an end to this divisive and expensive issue.”

Peachtree City Council member Kim Learnard and Board of Education member Leonard Presberg have also publicly supported a settlement for fiscal, political and/or public relations reasons, and the chamber of commerce has expressed its concerns also.

However, many residents who want to keep at-large voting are pressuring the county to continue the court fight, so all residents can vote for all county posts.

So, Fayette County readers, do you think the county should settle or continue the lawsuit over district voting? Send comments to communitynews@ajc.com.

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