In January 2020, a federal court in Albany agreed with the ACLU Voting Rights Project, the Law Office of Bryan L. Sells, and the ACLU of Georgia, that the at-large voting scheme used to elect members to the county Board of Elections was discriminatory and disproportionately impacted black voters. Sumter County’s district lines are drawn to exclude African Americans, who are 54% of the county’s population.
The court ruled that the at-large method of voting for the county’s public education school board members disproportionately favored the white candidates over the black preferred candidates. The court directed the County to adopt new maps with single-member districts, that will provide a meaningful opportunity for the African American community to elect candidates of their choice.
Equally important, the court ordered the county move its school board elections from May back to November to ensure increased voter participation. The Board of Education appealed the court’s decision.
On October 27, 2020, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s order earlier this year that the Sumter County Board of Elections and Registration adopt court-drawn maps for county school board elections, in compliance with the Voting Rights Act. In addition, the court required the county to move its school board elections from May back to November to ensure increased voter participation, including from the Black community.