Lawyers’ Committee Files Major Lawsuit Against Gwinnett County, Georgia Alleging Violation of the Voting Rights Act

Lawsuit Seeks to Defend Rights of African-Americans, Latinos and Other Minorities
Who Represent Half of County’s Population but Have Never Been Elected to Key
Positions in County’s History

Washington, D.C., August 8, 2016 – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
(Lawyers’ Committee), along with the Washington, D.C. office of Crowell and Moring
LLP and Atlanta-based attorney Brian J. Sutherland, Esq. of Buckley Beal, LLP,
acting as pro bono counsel, filed a lawsuit today on behalf of the Georgia State
Conference of the NAACP (GA NAACP), Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials
(GALEO) and seven Gwinnett County, Georgia-registered voters, alleging that the
district boundaries for the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners and the Gwinnett
County Board of Education violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The complaint, filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District
of Georgia, alleges that the current district maps for the Gwinnett County Board of
Commissioners and Board of Education violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by
diluting the voting strength of minority voters. The suit alleges that these maps,
coupled with a pattern of racially polarized voting, have long deprived
African-American, Latino and Asian-American voters a fair opportunity to elect
candidates of their choice. Together, African-American, Latino and Asian-American
voters comprise approximately 43 percent of the voting age population of Gwinnett
County.

“Remarkably, Gwinnett County, Georgia is the most racially diverse county in the
southeastern United States, yet no minority candidate has ever won election to the
County Board of Commissioners or Board of Education,” said Kristen Clarke, president
and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee. “This case is about political
power and the exclusion of racial minorities from key elected positions in the
county. This exclusion is directly attributable to the discriminatory configuration
of district maps and racially polarized voting, in violation of the Voting Rights
Act. Through this lawsuit we seek to ensure that Gwinnett County government reflects
the racial diversity of the community that it serves.”

“The decisions of these boards impact the day-to-day lives of Gwinnett County
residents in a myriad of ways, yet because of the packing and splitting of minority
voters in the current district plans, minority candidates have been repeatedly
defeated in Gwinnett County elections,” said Jerry Gonzalez, GALEO executive
director. “District lines must be fairly drawn for minority communities to elect the
representatives of their choice, to engage meaningfully with decision makers, and to
make sure that their needs are addressed.”

The current Board of Education district map assigns approximately 74.4 percent of
the African-American, Latino and Asian-American voters to District 5 and splits the
balance of the minority population across the other four districts where African
Americans, Latinos and Asian-Americans do not constitute a majority of the
population. The complaint alleges that the Board of Education districts should be
re-drawn to include a second majority-minority district so that minority voters have
a fair opportunity to elect candidates of their choice to the Gwinnett County Board
of Education.

Similarly, the current Board of Commissioners’ districting plan unnecessarily
divides African-American, Latino and Asian-American voters among four single-member
districts, preventing them from combining to form a majority in any district. The
complaint alleges that two majority-minority Board of Commissioners districts should
be drawn to give African-American, Latino and Asian-American the ability to elect
candidates of their choice.

“This is a part of our ongoing post-Shelby election administration monitoring across
Georgia,” said Francys Johnson, Statesboro civil rights attorney and Georgia NAACP
state president. “This case is illustrious of the fact that freedom is a constant
struggle. In Georgia’s rural town and counties to large cities, there has been a
steady chipping away of the gains achieved under the Voting Rights Act and the
National Voter Registration Act and the redistricting process has been a major tool
of retrogression. The NAACP will mortgage every asset we have to defend the
unfettered access to the ballot. It was paid for with the blood, sweat and tears of
our ancestors – it’s sacred.”

To read the full complaint, please click here (http://bit.ly/2b8rEJb) .

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About the Lawyers’ Committee

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a
nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President
John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address
racial discrimination. Formed over 50 years ago, we continue our quest of “Moving
America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee is to
secure, through the rule of law, equal justice under law, particularly in the areas
of fair housing and community development; employment; voting; education;
environmental justice; and criminal justice. For more information about the
Lawyers’ Committee, visit www.lawyerscommittee.org
(http://www.lawyerscommittee.org/) .

About the Georgia NAACP

THE GEORGIA NAACP (http://www.naacpga.org/) is the State’s oldest and largest civil
and human rights organization. With an unbroken presence in urban centers and rural
counties, from the mountains to the coast since 1917, the NAACP advances the mission
of eliminating racism through public policy advocacy, direct action, and litigation.

About GALEO

GALEO (http://galeo.org/) ’s mission is to increase civic engagement and leadership
development of the Latino/Hispanic community across Georgia. GALEO strives for a
better Georgia where the Latino community is engaged civically and its contributions
and concerns are recognized.

About Crowell & Moring LLP

Crowell & Moring LLP is an international law firm with approximately 500 lawyers
representing clients in litigation and arbitration, regulatory, and transactional
matters. The firm is internationally recognized for its representation of Fortune
500 companies in high-stakes litigation, as well as its ongoing commitment to pro
bono service and diversity. The firm has offices in Washington, DC, New York, Los
Angeles, San Francisco, Orange County, Anchorage, London, and Brussels. For more
information, visit www.crowell.com (http://www.crowell.com) .

About Buckley Beal, LLP

Buckley Beal, LLP is a boutique Atlanta law firm that focuses on representing
plaintiffs in employment discrimination and commercial litigation. The firm’s
attorneys have won multi-million verdicts and settlements for victims of
discrimination, retaliation, and business fraud in federal and state courts, and
advocate for civil rights and social justice with other important projects as well.
For more information, visit www.buckleybeal.com (http://www.buckleybeal.com)