Lee County NAACP is calling on the county to change the at-large voting system that it says weakens the minority vote.
The NAACP and ACLU both want a chance for minority groups to be heard and represented. That’s what both organizations say the Voting Rights Act of 1965 guarantees.
“In areas with a history of discrimination where other social and economic conditions results in less opportunity than white voters to participate in politics, the Voting Rights Act requires the creation of districts that provide that equal opportunity to participate to minority voters,” said Nicholas Warren, the staff attorney for ACLU of Florida.
“Section two then would require that there would be, at least at minimum, a 50% district for minority groups,” explained Katelin Haiser, voting rights counsel for Southern Coalition for Social Justice.
The minority population in Lee County has grown. The 2020 U.S. Census showed Black, Asian, Hispanic and Latino all went up , with bi-racial minorities seeing the largest increase.
The NAACP wants Lee County to create a majority minority district that combines Dunbar and Lehigh Acres. The Lee County unit asked Kaiser to help them make the case.
“I think that there is a major concern and a legacy in Lee County of not having Black people or brown people or people or white people actually listening to and representing and being accountable to minority populations,” Kaiser said.
Lee County created five sample maps. None of them combine Dunbar and Lehigh Acres into one district, however.
But Commissioner Brian Hamman said citizens can push for that change, and a change to the county’s at large voting system.
“Right now, anything is possible,” Hamman said. “This is the time to really bring forward ideas like this from the public, so we can look at them and give them the proper public vetting.”