Fayette Residents Continue Fight Against At-Large Voting

A group of residents in Fayette County is continuing to wage a fight against the county’s voting procedures.

On Tuesday night, the Fayette County Board of Elections voted 2-1 to proceed with at-large voting to fill a county commission seat after the recent death of the county’s first black commissioner.  

Two years ago, a federal judge ordered the county to implement district-voting and to create a minority district, saying the county’s at-large voting method prevented black voters from choosing a candidate of their choice.  

The district-voting led to the election of Pota Coston, the first African-American commissioner in the county’s history.

But county officials appealed the judge’s court order, and an appeals court sent the case back to trial. Because the case is still up in the air, county officials said it was only legal to go back to the at-large voting system to fill the seat in a special election.

“The decision by Fayette County is really is a step backwards and is an affront to progress that has been made in Fayette County,” said Leah Aden, assistant counsel with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and an attorney for the residents.

Aden said she’ll explore all legal options, including a preliminary injunction to stop the county from implementing at-large voting in September’s special election.

But county officials say they’re only following the law.  

“We really had no other options,” said Charles Oddo, chairman of the Fayette County Board of Commissioners.

“There’s nothing really legally we can do except go forward with what we had in place at that time [before the lawsuit].”

Oddo said he doesn’t see anything wrong with having residents vote countywide.

“I have personally not seen any rampant prejudice,” he said. “I think this is a very fair county to live in.”  

African Americans make up 21 percent of Fayette County population, according to recent census data. Before district-voting, no black candidate had ever been elected to the Board of Commissioners or Board of Education.