GEORGETOWN — Though it won't impact how voters initially elect school board members, the board approved a clarification to election law on how vacancies are filled on March 30, with potential vacancies to be filled through a special election.
The change will need to be presented to the General Assembly by the county legislative delegation and approved.
This comes after two board members, Elery Little and Richard Kerr, died last year, and the board had three conflicting courses of action it could take based on local law: leave the seats vacant, have the board fill them by appointment or hold a special election.
"It really was just willy nilly, kind of whatever the board decided to do, and that's not good," district attorney Lindsay Anne Thompson said.
Ultimately the district left the seats vacant until the November 2020 election, when Patti Hammel and Bill Gaskins were elected.
This legislation is the final part needed to fulfill a consent order from a 2008 lawsuit against the district.
The Department of Justice sued the district saying it was not in compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 because all of its board members were voted into office not based on districts, but based on whoever got the nine highest amount of votes. The basis of the lawsuit is that these at-large positions were almost always predominantly held by white people, Thompson said, and therefore were not representative of the county residents.
The board's approval of this legislation was not legally necessary, but was done anyways to supplement the delegations arguments for the legislation when it is presented to General Assembly next week.