ST. LOUIS (AP) — A federal judge has ordered the school district that includes part of Ferguson, Missouri, to institute a new method of electing school board members in an effort to remove racial bias from the process.
ACLU attorney Tony Rothert on Tuesday hailed the ruling, saying it will “finally give black voters an equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice.”
U.S. District Judge Rodney Sippel’s order Monday requires the Ferguson-Florissant School District to adopt cumulative voting, which will allow people to vote multiple times for a single candidate, depending on how many seats are up for grabs.
In August, Sippel struck down the district’s at-large election process, which allows people to vote only once for a candidate, ruling it was biased against black voters. The ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the Missouri NAACP and three residents of the Ferguson-Florissant School District.
School district attorney Cindy Ormsby said an appeal “is definitely under consideration” and that the school board will meet next week to decide.
The lawsuit was filed soon after the August 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by a white Ferguson police officer. It alleged that the district’s practice of selecting board members at-large has made it more difficult for black candidates to win election.
The district serves about 11,200 students in parts of 11 municipalities, including part of Ferguson. It is about evenly split between whites and blacks, but nearly 80 percent of the students are black, as many white parents send their kids to private and parochial schools. Three of the school board’s seven members are black.
Sippel ruled in August that the “ongoing effects of racial discrimination that have long plagued the region, and the District in particular, have affected the ability of African-Americans to participate equally in the political process.”
The new system will take effect in time for the next school board election in April. The order also requires the district to educate voters about the new process.
This story has been altered to clarify that the new system that the district has been ordered to adopt will allow people to vote multiple times for a single candidate, depending on how many seats are up for grabs.
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