WASHINGTON - The Department of Justice today announced that it has reached an agreement as to liability in a lawsuit filed under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act against the Euclid City School District Board of Education in Euclid, Ohio. The lawsuit challenges the method of electing members of the Euclid City School District’s governing body, alleging that it violates the rights of African-American voters to elect candidates of their choice.
"We are pleased that the school board’s willingness to concede liability in this case spares the Department and the citizens of Euclid the necessity of protracted, costly and potentially divisive litigation," said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. "This concession immediately places before the court the task of determining a fair remedial plan that provides African-American voters in Euclid the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice to the school board."
The complaint, filed today in U.S. District Court in Cleveland, Ohio, alleges that the at-large method used to elect the Euclid City School District Board of Education dilutes the voting strength of the city’s African-American voters due to racially polarized voting. Although African-Americans comprise nearly 30 percent of the city’s electorate, none of the African-Americans that have run for the five-member school board have ever been elected. Likewise, until March 2008, no African-American had been elected to any other city office.
The Department and the Board of Education have conferred extensively in an effort to resolve the case. To that end, the parties filed along with the complaint a written stipulation in which the Board of Education acknowledged that the current method of electing its members violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The parties recommended that the court decide the remedy issues at a later date.
The Euclid lawsuit is based in large part on evidence developed in the Department’s successful 2006 lawsuit against the city of Euclid over its method of electing city council members. After a two-week trial in 2007, Judge Kathleen McDonald O’Malley of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio ruled that the city’s method of electing its city council violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and entered a remedial order establishing eight single-member districts, including two majority-minority districts. The city’s first African-American city councilwoman was elected in March 2008 under the new plan.
To file complaints about discriminatory voting practices, including acts of harassment or intimidation, voters may call the Voting Section of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division at 1-800-253-3931. More information about the Voting Rights Act and other federal voting laws is available on the Department of Justice Web site at www.usdoj.gov/crt/voting/index.htm.