ACLU lawsuit filed against Jasper Co. School District
JASPER CO., SC (WTOC) -
The ACLU filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Jasper County School District and school board over imbalanced school district populations which violates the "one person, one vote" standard of the 14th amendment.
The Jasper County School District and the South Carolina House and Senate are required under state and federal law to redraw their districts every 10 years based on population size. But according to the ACLU lawsuit, the last time the school district did so was 17 years ago, in 1997.
The Jasper County School District's Board of Trustees is comprised of nine members from nine single member districts.
The ACLU lawsuit states that based on the 2010 census, Jasper County's population was 23, 467 and with nine districts, the average population should be 2,607.
But based on statistics, there's a 62.37 percent imbalance between the largest district, which is district 7, and the smallest, which is district 1.
The courts recommend the difference be no more than 10 percent.
"Districts should be equal size throughout, that's what this case is all about, it's about the districts not being in compliance with the Constitution of one person, one vote. There is no state law that requires cities and school districts to be redistricted like that, they don't have the authority to redistrict themselves, it must be done by the General Assembly of South Carolina," said Bobby Bowers, Director of the South Carolina Office of Research & Statistics.
Last month, State Senator Clementa Pinckney tried to introduce a redistricting bill but the bill was blocked by Jasper County legislators in the House of Representatives.
Because of that, the Jasper County School District issued this statement:
"This entirely predictable and avoidable lawsuit followed in due course. We regret that this situation has brought the school and election officials of our county into court over a matter none of us control."
The ACLU lawsuit recommends that a new redistricting be created in time for the 2014 election in which seven of the nine district seats are up for votes.
WTOC tried contacting plaintiff Priscilla Fraser, who is District 7 board Vice Chair, and Board of Trustees Chair Berty Riley, who is listed as a defendant, but got no response.
The Director of Jasper County's Elections and Voter Registration declined to comment and referred all questions to the county attorney.