The NAACP Legal Defense Fund has raised “serious concerns” that Columbus’s current at-large method of electing its city council may be in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The LDF has informed Columbus of its concern in multiple correspondences, and — unsatisfied with the city’s response — is starting the first of its investigatory/fact-finding trips to Columbus, as it seeks to gather information to help it determine whether Columbus elections are in violation of federal law that prohibits “minority vote dilution” — the submerging of the votes of minority groups in a larger pool of White votes. No other big city in America maintains the racially discriminatory at-large form of election — largely due to lawsuits by the Department of Justice and civil rights groups like the NAACP.
Leah Aden, Senior Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, will be in Columbus Thursday, Februarhy 22 and Friday, February 23rd to meet with community and key stakeholders to start to better understand the local political environment, and the perceived level of service it offers to Black Columbus. (Note: given the city’s demographics and housing patterns, African Americans appear to be the only group in Columbus with the specific VRA protections being considered here — the ability to elect candidates of its own choosing from a majority-minority council district.)
Everyday People for Positive Change will be hosting a public event — a panel discussion with Q&A — on Thursday, February 22nd at 6:00 (Details will follow as they are firmed). There will be an opportunity for people to express their thoughts about whether the political interests of African Americans in Columbus are given voice and resolved through the current political system, where all council members are elected by the White majority, instead of the VRA-intended form of election where the Columbus Black community has the right to elect representative(s) of its own choosing who can advocate forcefully without fear of losing the White support now needed to stay in office.
We understand that some people may be afraid to voice their concerns in public, and would like to allow all voices to be heard. To help the LDF understand the political environment and its impact on the interests of Black Columbus, we would ask you to complete the attached form. All responses will be confidential, although we request contact information should the LDF be interested in learning more about any issues brought up.