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The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday against the Ferguson-Florissant School District in Missouri, accusing the district's electoral system of locking African-Americans out of the political process.

The district’s at-large system used to elect school board members violates the federal Voting Rights Act by weakening African-American voting strength, according to the complaint brought on behalf of black residents and the Missouri NAACP.

Despite being a majority of students, blacks only make up a minority of the district’s voting age population, and under the current system they’re systematically unable to vote for candidates of their choice, according to the suit. It aims to let residents vote for school board members who reside in their district.

"It is a core American value that everyone has the right to cast a vote that counts," said Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Missouri. "This lawsuit is a positive step toward addressing racial inequities in our education system that will affect not only Ferguson, but all of Missouri."

The Ferguson-Florissant School District was formed in the wake of a 1975 desegregation order meant to remedy the effects of discrimination against black students. Though African-Americans are 77 percent of the student body, there is only one black member on the seven-member school board.

The district said it was reviewing the lawsuit and hoped to issue a statement in the near future.


— Miranda Leitsinger