The tug of war over the special election to fill Pota Coston’s seat on the Fayette County Board of Commissioners continued with Monday’s court ruling. U.S. District court judge Timothy Batten ordered Fayette County to use district voting to replace Coston in the Sept. 15 special election.
In a 36-page decision, Batten ordered the county to use the remedial plan first adopted by the district court in Feb. 2014. He granted the preliminary injunction request from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), meaning Coston’s Fifth District seat would be filled with the same method that saw her elected.
“I’m not surprised by the court’s ruling,” said Fayette County School Board Member Leonard Presberg, who is also chairman of the Fayette County Democratic Committee. “What saddens me is that our elected officials continue to waste what will be millions of dollars to defend an illegal discriminatory voting system.
“A true honor to Pota’s legacy and leadership would be to settle this case,” Presberg said. “It’s particularly poignant that this is coming on the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. It shows after 50 years we are still struggling to make sure every vote counts.”
The final fate of district voting for future elections still remains to be seen. Monday’s decision is a win for the NAACP, but it does not represent a permanent injunction.
In January of this year, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals returned the case to Batten to hear the case in a trial setting. His initial summary judgement did not include the hearing of evidence, something that would be required in trial.
The appeals court chose not to vacate the results of November’s elections that included Coston becoming the county’s first black commissioner. A trial date has not yet been set.