WASHINGTON - The Justice Department filed a lawsuit today to challenge the at-large method of electing the Lake Park, Fla. Town Commission on the ground that it dilutes the voting strength of black citizens in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Miami, alleges that as a result of racially polarized voting patterns in town elections, candidates preferred by black voters are usually defeated. Indeed, no black candidate has ever won an election for town commission. In addition, the lawsuit alleges that under a single-member district plan to elect the four town commissioners, black persons would constitute a majority of the citizen voting age population in at least one of the districts. The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief in the form of a court order implementing a new method of electing the town commission.
"The at-large method of election has consistently denied black voters an equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice to the Lake Park Town Commission," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Loretta King. "We hope that the Town of Lake Park will work with us to negotiate a settlement that would provide black citizens in Lake Park a meaningful electoral voice in town government."
U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta of the Southern District of Florida stated, "The Voting Rights Act prohibits any practice on procedure that results in the denial or abridgement of the right to vote on the basis of race, color, and other improper factors. The civil complaint filed today alleges that the Lake Park Commission elections are characterized by the use of practices that impair black electoral success. Our goal is to enforce the Voting Rights Act to ensure that no citizen is denied access to the electoral process on the basis of race or color."
Complaints about discriminatory voting practices may be reported to the Voting Section of the Justice Department'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 http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/voting.