Louisiana West Monroe Election Method Challenge
United States v. City of West Monroe
Lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) against the mayor of West Monroe, Louisiana, and members of the West Monroe Board of Alderman, the city council, challenging the board’s election method. The lawsuit alleges that the method of electing board members violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) by diluting the voting strength of Black voters. Under the challenged election method, five members are elected through five at-large contests, meaning that members are elected to represent the entire city of West Monroe rather than specific districts. The plaintiff alleges that, under “the totality of circumstances, the current method of electing the West Monroe Board of Aldermen results in Black citizens having less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice, in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.” According to the complaint, since “Reconstruction, no Black candidate has ever been elected to a city, parish, or state position that represents all of West Monroe, nor has any Black candidate representing all of West Monroe been elected to the U.S. Congress.” The DOJ requests that the defendants be prevented from administering elections under the current scheme and asks that the court order the defendants to devise and implement an election system that complies with Section 2 of the VRA.
On April 15, 2021, the parties entered into a consent decree (an agreement) that ended the previous method of electing members to the board and replaced it with a remedial process that mandated a “fairly-drawn three single-member district plan, drawn in accordance with the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution [that] would result in Black citizens of West Monroe having an opportunity to elect candidates of choice in at least one single-member district.” Following this, West Monroe agreed to a mixed method of election wherein three “members of the Board of Aldermen will be elected from single-member districts, and two members of the Board of Aldermen will be elected at large.”