The state’s most active Latino organization has served notice that it intends to challenge the electoral system of the city of Gainesville, home to both the governor and lieutenant governor, for allegedly shutting Hispanics and other minorities out of local politics.
The Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials has sent a letter to Gainesville City Attorney James Palmour, informing him that it had retained legal counsel – Keegan Federal, the former DeKalb County judge – and wanted to negotiate a solution that would “avoid the expense of litigation which would be imposed on taxpayers in these already-difficult times.”
The issue GALEO is aiming at would be familiar to anyone who covered local government 30 or 40 years ago – Gainesville’s requirement that all members of its city council live in specific districts, but be elected citywide, rather than by single district itself.
Read Federal’s Aug. 21 letter in its entirety here. A few excerpts:
I want to express, both clearly and candidly, our sincere desire to resolve these issues through discussion and the development of mutually agreed-upon remediation of the current situation, particularly in light of the indisputable fact that the Hispanic population of District 3 is 58.99%, District 4 is 55.69%, and District 5 is 61.39%. In fact, in District 5, the voting age population (age 18 and above) is 55.17% Hispanic. These numbers are virtually unprecedented in recent voter dilution cases under the Voting Rights Act….
Even assuming that some members of Gainesville’s Latino population are non-citizens and therefore ineligible to vote….the 2010 census data is compelling….
[T]he City of Gainesville’s overall population is 57.82% “minority” (Black and Hispanic) residents. Even the voting age population of protected minorities is nearly a majority (49.71%). At the District level, this combined analysis is stunning: 82.7% in District 3, 67.41% in District 4, and 73.14% in District t. Notwithstanding these population levels, only one member of a statutorily protected minority group (an African-American) has ever served on the Gainesville City Council….
The letter notes that at-large voting has been mostly abolished in Georgia, with the exception of Forsyth County and the cities of Gainesville and Dalton.
On the last page of Federal’s letter:
Elections in Gainesville demonstrate a clear pattern of ethnically polarized voting, in the wake of intense anti-immigration campaigns of candidates favored by the white majority block.
This situation could get interesting, and quickly.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider