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NAACP LDF Letter Says Diversity on City Council is Superficial

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega NAACP LDF Letter Says Diversity on City Council is Superficial
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Following one group’s continual push for district representation on Columbus City Council, council is again defending the at-large voting method by which its members are elected. This time, they’re answering to a letter sent by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF), who last month asserted that Columbus’ electoral process violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and unlawfully dilutes the black vote.

The exchange between the LDF and city council has spanned four letters. After the LDF’s initial letter of concern, City Council President Zach Klein sent back a brief note which lauded Columbus for its inclusivity and its “strong record of electing minority candidates.” Leah Aden, the LDF Senior Counsel, isn’t convinced.

In the latest communication, sent last week, Aden again stressed how the at-large electoral process has previously been exposed as having racially discriminatory results. She’s referring to Euclid City Council’s election process, which was found by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio to be diluting the strength of black voters.

Aden also said that while city council has been diverse, all but one member since 1991 have been appointed, meaning that diversity might not be much more than skin deep.

“…the U.S. Supreme Court has warned that unconstitutional racial stereotyping can occur when officials assume of racial minorities that ‘they think alike, share the same political interests, and prefer the same candidates.’ (Shaw v. Reno, 509 U.S. 630, 631 (1993),” the LDF warned.

Everyday People for Positive Change (EDP), originally Represent Columbus, is currently working on a ballot initiative to appear on the May 2 primary ballot and had urged the LDF to get involved in this local issue. EDP’s initiative aims to create districts within Columbus and have residents elect representatives that come from their own district.

“For too long, basic voting rights have been artfully dodged by Columbus leaders, who have used the appointment process to select African Americans to manufacture a ‘diverse’ council in this majority White elector at-large voting scheme, while paternalistically subverting the voting power of the Columbus Black community to elect candidates of its own choosing,” said Jonathan Beard, EDP Treasurer.

The New York-based LDF intends to make some visits to Columbus in the new year.

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