A Voting Rights Battle in a School Board ‘Coup’

A Voting Rights Battle in a School Board ‘Coup’

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In fact, before leaving office, Ms. Minich had advanced a new voting map for the county that would end up doing exactly that.

“That was my parting shot, this little coup, before I went off the board,” she said.

Ms. Minich said that the map was not an effort to get rid of a Black majority. The size of the board was too costly for a rural county, she said, and it would be easier on voters if the number of school board districts was the same as the number of county commissioners.

The plan included five districts and two “at large” seats, to be voted countywide, shrinking the board from nine to seven seats. The countywide seats should have favored African-Americans, whose population in the area had risen to 52 percent in the last census, said Ms. Minich.

But Mr. King, who was recently hired as the board’s first Black attorney, warned that, in his view, Black voter turnout was far lower than white turnout in the South because of the long history of voter suppression. African-American candidates stood little chance to win countywide seats, he argued.

On Mr. King’s advice, the board discarded the voting map. The majority also began to steer a new path, replacing the board’s white chairman, Dr. Michael Busman, with Edith Green, a retired educator who is Black. They also fired the superintendent who had been hired by the previous board. Many of the votes were now split along racial lines.

The decisions angered Ms. Minich, especially the firing of the superintendent, who she believed was doing a good job. She asked what might be done now that she was no longer on the board.

“That’s why we formed ‘the group,’” she said.

In early 2012, a group describing itself as Sumter County’s “concerned citizens” rallied 200 attendees, mostly white, at a local elementary school. The parents aired grievances about the board and made plans to keep up pressure.

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