For most people, Ferguson, Mo., will be remembered for one awful August afternoon, when a white police officer there shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown. But that incident was only a snapshot in the town’s long and complicated racial history — a history characterized by entrenched segregation and economic inequality, as well as by familiar and systemic obstacles that have kept black residents from holding positions of political power. Ferguson’s population is two-thirds African-American, and yet its mayor, city manager and five of its six City Council members are white. So are its police chief and all but three officers on its 53-member police force. The school board for the Ferguson-Florissant School District is much the same: More than three-quarters of the district’s 12,000 students are black, but the seven-member board includes only one African-American.
Last month the American Civil Liberties Union sued the school board under the Voting Rights Act, arguing that the way its members are elected blocks minority voters from fully participating in the political process.
The method is known as “at large” voting, and lets voters cast ballots for all candidates in the district, regardless of where the voters live. Since the district’s voting-age population is 50 percent white and 47 percent black, and since both groups there tend to vote along strict racial lines, the white voters’ candidates almost always win.
The lawsuit, filed in a Missouri federal court on Dec. 18, contends that the white board members have not been attentive enough to the needs of black students, and in 2013 the board dismissed the district’s first black superintendent without explanation.
Full Article: Race and Voting Rights in Ferguson – NYTimes.com.