Justice Department Reaches Agreement with the City of West Monroe under the Voting Rights Act
MONROE, LA (STL.News) The Justice Department announced today that it has entered into a proposed consent decree to settle a voting rights lawsuit with the City of West Monroe, Louisiana. The Justice Department’s lawsuit, brought under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, challenges the current at-large method of electing the West Monroe Board of Aldermen. Under this agreement, the City of West Monroe will change its method of electing its Board of Aldermen to ensure compliance with the protections of the Voting Rights Act.
The proposed consent decree was filed in federal court in conjunction with a lawsuit brought by the Justice Department. The department’s complaint alleges that the current method of electing the West Monroe Board of Aldermen results in black citizens in West Monroe having less opportunity than white citizens to participate in the political process and to elect candidates of their choice, in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Although black residents comprise nearly 30% of the electorate, no black candidate has ever been elected to the West Monroe Board of Aldermen. The complaint does not allege that the current method of election was adopted or maintained with discriminatory intent.
The department gave notice to the City of West Monroe of its intent to bring suit under the Voting Rights Act on March 4, and the parties worked collaboratively to achieve this agreement. Under the parties’ consent decree—and subject to approval by the federal district court in Louisiana—West Monroe will discontinue use of its current at-large method of electing the five members of its Board of Aldermen. Beginning with the next municipal election, currently scheduled for March 26, 2022, three members of the Board of Aldermen will be elected from single-member districts and two members will be elected at-large. The agreement also provides West Monroe will publicize the new method of election.
“The Voting Rights Act remains a vital tool to ensure that underrepresented citizens have a fair chance to choose their representatives,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela S. Karlan for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “We appreciate that the City of West Monroe has worked diligently and cooperatively with the Department to adopt a solution that provides all the City’s citizens with an equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect aldermen of their choice.”
“We join the Civil Rights Division in bringing this important lawsuit under the Voting Rights Act and appreciate that the City of West Monroe has worked with the Justice Department to adopt a solution that brings about fair representation,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Alexander C. Van Hook of the Western District of Louisiana.