ACLU responds to SCOTUS’ denial, Ferguson-Florissant School District


ST. LOUIS, Mo. – The Supreme Court of the United States released summary dispositions for certiorari, denying Ferguson-Florissant School District v. Missouri Conference of NAACP (18-592).

“The U.S. Supreme Court let stand the trial and appellate courts’ decision that the Ferguson-Florissant School District’s electoral system violates the Voting Rights Act,” Julie Ebenstein, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project said. “With a new electoral system in place, all residents’ voices will be heard and their votes will be given equal weight.”

The case, filed December 18, 2014, by ACLU, was brought on behalf of the Missouri NAACP and African American residents of the school district to charge the district’s electoral system based, which locks African Americans out of the political process.

According to ACLU, the at-large system is in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act “by diluting African-American voting strength.” ACLU explained that in the Ferguson-Florissant School District, African Americans are part of the minority voting age population, but are “systematically unable to elect candidates of their choice.”

“The suit seeks to remedy the Section 2 violation by creating an electoral system with equal opportunities for African American residents to elect their candidates of choice,” ACLU stated in its Voting Rights Trial in Ferguson release.

The district covers many municipalities in the area and has a history filled with racial discrimination. The district was actually created by a 1975 desegregation order, in hopes of remedying the effects of discrimination against African-American students. Currently, there are only two African-American members on the seven-member board with a 77 percent of African-Americans in the student body.

In January 2016, there was a six-day bench trial held in court. On August 22, 2016, a federal court made the ruling that the at-large electoral process used by the Ferguson-Florissant School District “dilutes the voting power of the African-American community,” and is therefore in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

On August 28, 2016, ACLU filed their remedial proposals. The defendants moved to amend the district court judgment and filed an interlocutory appeal in the Eighth Circuit on September 1, 2016, and was denied by the District Court on September 27, 2016. On October 25, 2016, the defendant’s interlocutory appeal for lack of jurisdiction was dismissed by the Eight Circuit. A remedial order was issued by the court on November 21, 2016, which ordered the school board to implement a cumulative voting plan. The defendants’ appealed the Eighth Circuit on December 14, 2016.

ACLU submitted their Appellees’ brief in the Eighth Circuit in March 2017 and federal appeals court arguments were set for December 13, 2017.

“Now that this court case has come to a successful conclusion, all parties should focus on the ultimate objective: a Ferguson-Florissant School Board that is responsive to the needs of the community,” Tony Rothert, legal director, ACLU of Missouri said. “We look forward to working with the school district and the Board of Elections to implement the new cumulative voting system that will be used starting with April’s election.”

Read the list of the SCOTUS orders here.