Are African-American voters in the Ferguson-Florissant school district shortchanged because board members there are elected at-large? Or would dividing the district into subdistricts actually weaken the clout of black voters, not increase it? U.S. District Judge Rodney Sippel will hear arguments for both sides of the issue this week in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU claims that the racial history of the makeup of the board shows that African Americans do not have representation proportional to their population. Dale Ho, an attorney from New York who handles voting rights cases nationwide for the ACLU, says the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson in 2014 brought a sharper focus to the issue. But, he added, it really has been present since the 1970s, when the Ferguson-Florissant school district was created from the Ferguson, Berkeley and Kinloch districts under a federal court order.
“This is a place where there are wide disparities across a range of socio-economic indicators, everything from income, wealth, employment, rates, home ownership, vehicle ownership,” Ho said.
“When you combine all of these socio-economic disparities, the truth is that the African-American community there is at a disadvantage, and when voting is polarized along racial lines, as it is in the Ferguson-Florissant school district, an area that has had a very deep and longstanding history of racial tension, what it means then is that disadvantaged communities can’t wield effective political clout.”