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Ana Maria Rosato media@acluga.org

October 27, 2020

October 1, 2019 Americus - Mathis Kearse Wright Jr., who sued the Sumter County school board, stands on the grounds where the new Sumter County High School is being built. (Ryon Horne/RHORNE@AJC.COM)

Appeals Court Upholds Ruling that Sumter County Board of Education’s Redistricting Violated the Voting Rights Act

ATLANTA – Today, 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. This lawsuit was brought on behalf of Reverend Mathis Wright, Jr. by the ACLU Voting Rights Project, the Law Office of Bryan L. Sells, and the ACLU of Georgia. 

In 2010, Black-preferred candidates were elected to the Sumter County School Board, resulting in a majority-Black board for the first time in history. However, one month after the election – and before the new candidates could take office – the board voted to change the district lines, added two new at-large districts, and moved the elections from November to May, when turnout tends to be less. 

These discriminatory changes would all but prevent the board from being majority Black in the future. In 2014, Reverend Wright, filed this lawsuit against the county, challenging these changes as discriminatory and in violation of the Voting Rights Act. In early 2020, the district court ruled in the Plaintiff’s favor, and Sumter County appealed. Today’s decision resolves the appeal.

“The right to vote is sacred. Today’s decision ensures that all of Sumter County’s voters will have a voice in electing school-board members, and it shows the continuing need for the Voting Rights Act to protect against discrimination,” said Bryan Sells, lead counsel in Wright v Sumter County Board of Elections and Registration.

Click here for more information on Wright v Sumter County Board of Elections and Registration