Fayette County Issues Tea Party logo
Fayette County Issues Tea Party logo
WE THE PEOPLE of Fayette County... cannot be complacent about our future
 
ELECTED OFFICIALS
RESOURCES
PHOTOS
ARCHIVE
ISSUES
K-12 EDUCATION
 AMNESTY
AGENDA 21
2ND AMENDMENT
 
TAXATION
LEGISLATION

Voting: Commissioners & Board of Education

 

The Case Is Settled; You Have Lost Your Right To Vote for 60% of the county's Executive Branch

Click here for a timeline of significant events

During the week of Jan 10, 2016, the Board of Education in a unanamous vote and the Board of Commissioners in a majority vote decided to approve a settlement agreement with the NAACP on their complaint of a violation of §2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The settlement shall divide the county into four districts, with one member from each Board residing in each district. A fifth at-large district has no such residency requierment and shall be elected at-large.

To better protect citizens from abuses of an overly powerful central authority, the American system separates power into three branches- judicial, legislative, and executive. We elect our 435 U.S. Representatives and 100 U.S. Senators to the legislative branch (Congress) by their individual district. Given the immense authority of the Executive over our lives, however, we elect that authority at-large: every U.S. voter can participate in the presidential election, and every Georgia voter can cast a ballot for their preferred gubernatorial candidate.

At county level, the Board of Commissioners and the School Board serve as both legislative and executive authorities. In their executive capacity, they exercise authority to approve tax rates and spend citizens' money, as well as draft and approve local ordinances.

Given the much greater authority the boards exercise in their excutive capacity, we believe every county voter should elect all the members who comprise the executive authority; being restricted to voting for 1/5 of that authority falls far short of the American system of government.

We also believe that district voting creates a divisive district-mentality like we routinely witness in the U.S. Congress, where representatives depend only upon voters within their district for election, instead of all voters across the county. This typically breeds in-fighting, back room deals, and more expensive & less effective county government. While our current commissioners have pledged to take a county-wide perspective, sound government cannot be structured on personalities, but must be built on principles and a realistic recognition of human nature.

We're certainly a small sized county- 142d of 159 in the state- and do not want to be further divided, or Balkanized, into five separate districts whose commissioners are accountable to only 20% of the voters. Of the surrounding (and many other GA counties), Fayette has a very low cost government that serves its citizens very well

Cost-benefit comparison

 

The Plaintiffs' Complaint

In their 2011 lawsuit, the Georgia State Conference and the Fayette County Branch of the NAACP, with 11 named citizens, contend that the county's at-large voting method violated §2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, evidenced by the fact that "...no black candidate has ever been elected to [the County Commission or the School Board."

When presenting the totality of the circumstances, the plaintiffs further allege that “Political campaigns in Fayette County have been and continue to be characterized by subtle and overt racial appeals”, that "Black residents of Fayette County have less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process." and that they continue to suffer a "... history of neglect by unresponsive elected officials..."

Some lawsuit supporters who have suffered discrimination all their lives may view this action as redress for those many years enduring such legitimate grievances- grievances they've encountered in restaurants, stores, motels, hiring, promotions, dismissals, etc. Those are vital matters, and many should be properly addressed in court. But those offenses are not what the county's being charged with, which raises significant concern and dismay among defendants who read key passages in the court order to adopt district voting (emphasis added):

"The Court agrees with the County Defendants that in contrast to many §2 plaintiffs, Plaintiffs have not proffered evidence relating specifically to discrimination in Fayette County."

"... from the late 1880's to the present the State of Alabama and its political subdivisions have 'openly and unabashadly' discriminated against their black citizens..."

"... evidence regarding the specific county's discrimination is not required... evidence regarding the state's history of discrimination can tip this factor in the plaintiff's favor."

"Thus, while evidence of discriminatory practices in Fayette County specifically would strengthen Plaintiffs' claim, based on Georgia's undisputed history of discrimination, such evidence is not required for this factor to weigh in their favor."

These statements, on pages 49 and 50 of the federal order literally say that the lawsuit will not be decided on the fairness of Fayette County's voting system, but what's occurred in other counties and another state 135 years ago. We vigorously disagree with this rationale and support a vigorous defense against it.

 

How do the claims stack up- is it about race... or old fashioned politics?

Click "start" icon, then advance timeline to 37:20 for citizen comments about the lawsuit during county commission meeting

 


Election results since 2004 are available on the Fayette County website, and elections since that time are the ones cited in the lawsuit. We cannot find examples of campaigns that have employed either subtle or racial appeals as alleged in the lawsuit, but do find considerable evidence of political realities (such as voter apathy, running against incumbents, and the necessity of running a campaign that reaches a majority of voters).

Furthermore, we cannot find a single instance of black county neighbors not having had just as much right as every other citizen to participate in the political process; no one has hindered them in any way from registering to vote, campaigning, or voting for the candidate of their choice.

The NAACP would be accurate if it said (both black and white) Democrats have next to no likelihood of winning political office in heavily Republican Fayette County. But even then, all voters would have equal opportunity to participate in the political process. How population shifts and political preferences change in the future is speculative.

Between 2004 - 2012, black citizens have chosen to run in only six of the 27 elections for County Commission and School Board (click link to download one-page summary).

In the three primary and one special election, there were clearly enough registered black voters to elect black (Republican) candidates, but an overwhelming number of black voters chose not to participate in the political process and elect them. Had more of them chosen to participate, those black candidates' primary election victories would have assured black candidate membership on both Boards because there were no Democrats in either primary election. Source: GA Secretary of State's records.

Primaries

Special Election

 

The black Democrats, Mack and Burgess, who competed in the two general elections faced the exact same fate as white Democrats in heavily Republican Fayette County- they all lost by almost the same exact margins. Again, the facts demonstrate that politics, not race, drive outcomes in the county.

General Elections

 

Further Evidence...

If the NAACP racial bias charges were true, one would expect significantly different election outcomes in precincts included in the current 5th District, with its highly compact black voter base, and the rest of the county, with its much higher white voter base.  Election results clearly demonstrate no meaningful differences whatsoever between the two different groups of precincts. Allegiance is very high to political party, not candidates’ race. Let’s examine:

During 2004 – 2012 there were only two general elections between a black and a white candidate- for County Commission Post 4 in 2010 and for School Board Post 4 in 2006.

Since GA voters do not register by party, the best gauge of party affiliation in general elections is the election outcomes for relatively obscure offices, such as GA State Public Service or Insurance Commissioner. Most voters are unware of issues related to those offices, the candidates, and their position on issues... voters simply opt for their party's candidate. The red line depicts the percent of electors who voted for the Democratic candidate for that office, providing a baseline of Democratic electors throughout the county’s precincts.

The nine precincts on the left are those in the current 5th District; all other precincts are grouped on the right of the chart. The blue columns show the proportion of votes for the (black) Democrat, Burgess. 

The correlation between votes for the Democratic Public Service Commissioner and for the Democratic black School Board candidate in District 5 precincts is almost perfect, at 99+%. Very significantly, however, the same very high correlation exists in the other precincts where there is no alleged “highly compact” group of black voters (but there is a majority of white voters).

 

Correlations

 

The results are nearly identical in the only general election for a County Commission post:

Correlations 2

The conclusion from both analyses is identical:  Election success hinges upon party affiliation & voter strength.


 

We believe "at-large" is the best system for our county because every citizen has a voice in the election of all board members who serve as the executive branch of government, and every member is responsible to voters throughout the county- not just to voters living in their district. It also reduces the Balkanization of the county and accompanying turf battles.

Click here for a timeline of significant events in the case.

In attempting to draw a district that met U.S. Constitutional, federal, GA State requirements, and traditional districting guidelines, the judge approved the gerrymandered district shown below.

 

The court-imposed map included a 5th district that violated at least two traditional standards used when drawing such boundaries:

1. Districts shall be compact. If the districts drawn are too irregular-looking, it may become a signal to the courts that the lines may have been motivated by a desire to engage in race-based redistricting, which may be held unlawful. Or as stated in one state's instructions, they shall "have no odd shapes".  The plaintiff's must meet this standard for their claim to conform to the U.S. Supreme Court's conditions for having claim for redistricting.

2. Respect existing political boundaries. The district clearly violates this principle, as it splits the town of Tyrone, with a 2013 population of only 7,067, into two districts, and splits Fayetteville, 2013 population of 16,097, into three districts!

A third principle calls for contiguous districts, that is, that you could travel from any point in the district to any other point without having to cross the district boundary (no "islands"). The red circle shows a narrow 504' tether connecting District 1 with what would otherwise be an island that would violate GA State law.

  Gerrmandered 5th District

Gerrymander: To manipulate or adapt to one's advantage.

Printed in March 1812, this political cartoon was drawn in reaction to the state senate electoral districts drawn by the Massachusetts legislature to favour the Democratic-Republican Party candidates of Governor Elbridge Gerry over the Federalists.

The caricature satirises the bizarre shape of a district in Essex County, Massachusetts as a dragon-like "monster."

Federalist newspapers editors and others at the time likened the district shape to a salamander, and the word gerrymander was a blend of that word and Governor Gerry's last name.

 

We believe district voting in Fayette County is a giant step backwards... to the days before the unanimous May 17, 1954 Supreme Court decision to overturn the prevailing "Separate but Equal" policy, and that it creates racially divided districts that its proponents hope will be equal.

The lawsuit also has the effect of telling black Fayette County citizens that they simply can't win a county-wide election, that they somehow don't have the "right stuff" to compete at the varsity [county-wide] level. The lawsuit will create a junior varsity arena [district] where they can compete more favorably.  

We find this insulting, disrespectful, prejudicial, and untrue of black citizens. Best government practices provide basic rights evenly across geographical and demographic lines instead of segmenting groups of citizens for different treatment.

Furthermore...

In 2002, black attorney Charles Floyd was appointed as Chief Magistrate Judge after his disgraced predecessor resigned from the bench under a cloud of racial discrimination. Attorneys often avoid running for office against sitting judges, but an opportune time for doing so is when the judge faces his first election, especially if it comes after only two years on the bench.

In the 2008, half the magistrate judges faced opposition in the general election. Judge Floyd's professionalism earned him such respect as a jurist that no one challenged him in 2004 or 2008 victories that also reflected heavy white support. 

While not a county-wide race, a very well qualified black challenger for Fayetteville City Council unseated the white incumbent by a margin of 62% - 38% in a conservative city with a black population of 34%. Due to the challenger's qualifications, he was broadly supported by conservatives who are also memebrs of the FCITP, the NAACP, and the Fayette County Democratic Party. Very capable candidate, effective campaign = election to office.

In 2013 in Tyrone, the black challenger to a town council seat captured 49.58% of the votes- only six less than the white incumbent in a town where GA Secretary of State records show that the town had only 10% black voters. Again, a large number of white voters supported a highly qualified black candidate. Many voters who supported the incumbent wanted to continue a slow growth economic development policy.

As stated previously, black candidates have only entered six of the past 27 county-wide BoC & BoE races over the past ten years, one in the past ten races, and none of the six contests during the 2012 election cycle (summary here).  The 2010 black BoE candidate demonstrated a poor grasp of the issues, ran a very limited and ineffective campaign, did not comply with GA State campaign financial disclosure requirements, and did not respond to the county's largest circulation newspaper when asked questions posed to all candidates.

Newspaper article

 

In a 2006 election cited in the lawsuit, a white candidate for BoC was opposed by four black contenders who split the black vote (one was female, three were male; two were Democrats and two were Republicans). 

Preferred candidate?

Despite the fact white citizens comprised about 80% of the registered voters at the time, the white candidate prevailed over the combined black candidates by a mere 184 votes (2,709 to 2,525).  And since the lawsuit repeatedly asserts that white bloc voting has kept black voters from electing the "black-preferred" candidate, it's useful to ask, "Who was the "black-preferred" candidate?"
 
- Was it the female? 
- The black Democrat? 
- The black Republican who received more votes than all the other black candidates combined? 
- The white male, who polled very well in predominatly black precincts and secured more votes than any black candidate in both at-large and district processes? 
- Or should we conclude from the over 70% of registered black voters who stayed home that there was no "black-preferred" candidate?

The lawsuit also accuses the white candidate of racism by citing a campaign statement that he ran "to maintain and preserve the heritage we have in our county." FCITP Co-Founder Bob Ross called the candidate for his explanation:

  "When I first ran, it was a special election- there were 5 candidates running three republican two democrats. Some background for you is that I have lived here in FC since 1976. Things where very different back then, their was only one high school, one middle and one elementary school, McDonalds in Fayetteville had not been built, hwy 54 was just a winding two lane road to a place called Peachtree City. My parents owned a pet shop called Fur Feather and Fin located on Hwy 138 and 314, people would go north of Fayette to go shopping and do things.

  "Prior to my opening Mr Transmission I went away to collage and was in aviation always gone. I had many opportunity to move somewhere other than Fayetteville. I always came back. I started my family here and now have built a business here.

  "So when I said, I wanted "to maintain and preserve the heritage" I was wanting to keep Fayette the way I remembered growing up here. Simple, easygoing, small town feel, Everyone knows everyone, you know your neighbors when you see them in the grocery store. My mom and dad would always brag to their friend about how they where able to keep the doors unlock and windows open in the evenings here in Fayetteville, they would also tell every one that you could drink the water right out of the tap. Growing up in south Florida you where unable to do that with out a little taste of something.

  "My strategy in running my race was to reach all Fayette County citizens who wanted someone who had history with Fayette County. All of the other people running in the election had not been in Fayette county very long. Growing up here in Fayette County defiantly helped me in the election.  Additionally the Commissioner who passed was one who had been a longtime Fayette County person.

  "When Emory Wilkerson complained and cried "foul" even in the predominately back areas of Fayette County I had a majority.

  "And what I have always said is that I worked harder, I out worked all the other candidates. Their
[sic] was not a function, chamber event, you name it I was their [sic] campaigning."

You be the judge.

 

Timeline of significant events:

Aug 9, 2011, The NAACP and named plaintiffs allege that Fayette County is in violation of §2 of the Voting Rights Act in their complaint to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

May 21, 2013, in a bench ruling, Federal Judge Timothy Batten ruled in favor of the NAACP; download his ruling here

May 30, 2013 the Fayette county Board of Commissioners voted to appeal the decision, newspaper article here.

As of Aug 2013, Federal Judge Batten referred the drawing of five district boundaries to the GA Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office

Jan 2014, U.S. District Judge Batten proposes a new district map for the county. The top right, or 5th, district (tan color) is in question; extensions into select sections of Tyrone & Fayetteville raise the question of gerrymandering to achieve the NAACP's goal of a district where black voters are in the majority (download a full size version).

Feb 18, 2014, U.S. District Judge Batten issues an order to impose the court-drawn district map on Fayette County Board of Commissioners and Board of Education. While meeting the requirement for a 50% majority of voting age minority members, it does so through gerrymandering. Both Boards have the right to appeal the decision.

Mar 16, 2014, The Fayette County Board of Education votes to appeal Judge Batten's ruling.

Mar 19, 2014, The Fayette County Board of Commissioners votes to appeal Judge Batten's ruling.

Dec 10, 2014, U.S. District Court, to hold hearing on the appeal.

Jan 7, 2015, U.S. 11th Circuit Court finds that a bench trial, rather than Judge Batten's consideration only of documents, was the appropriate for decidinfg the case, and that Judge Batten failed to provide sufficient notice to the Board of Education before issuing his opinion.

Jul;y 3, 2015, The Honorable Commissioner Pota E. Coston succumed to cancer.

July 15, 2015, The Fayette County Elections Board approved the dates for candidates to file for the election and the date of the special election (Sep. 15, 2015) to fill Commissionmer Coston's vacant seat. Read stories here and here.

Aug 3, 2015, Judge Batten rules for the NAACP on their injunction to adhere to the gerrymandered district map and use of district voting. Read story here and see judge's order here.

Oct 20, 2015, Federal Judge Batten ordered the plaintiffs and defendants to mediate to settle their differences.

Nov 1, 2015, Federal Judge Batten orders the plaintiffs and defendants back to mediation.

Nov 9, 2015, Federal Judge Batten issues a continuence of the trial until further order of the court.

Jan 12, 2016, Fayette County School Board votes 5-0 to approve a settlement

Jan 14, 2016, Fayette County Commissioners vote 3-2 (Oddo, Barlow, Rousseau) to approve a settlement

 

Find additional court case information here


Active voter comparison

Source: GA Secretary of State, http://sos.ga.gov/index.php/Elections/voter_turn_out_by_demographics


-