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Federal Judge Orders New Voting System In Ferguson, Mo., School District

A federal judge has ordered a new voting system to select school board members in the Ferguson-Florissant, Mo., school district.

The new cumulative voting system will allow voters to cast as many votes as there are open seats on the ballot. For example, if there are three open seats on the school board, voters can split their three votes among the candidates running or they can give all three votes to one candidate. The highest vote-getters will be the winners.

The Ferguson-Florissant school district, which enrolls students from part or all of 11 municipalities in the St. Louis area, has seven members who each serve three-year terms. School board elections are currently staggered and held in off-year cycles. District officials had argued to keep the at-large voting system in place.

The order by U.S. District Chief Judge Rodney W. Sippel is part of a civil rights lawsuit against the district and the St. Louis County Board of Elections. The plaintiffs, which included the Missouri chapter of the NAACP, alleged that the at-large voting system in Ferguson-Florissant violated the federal Voting Rights Act and made it difficult for African-Americans to be elected to the board.

In an August ruling, Sippel agreed with the NAACP and the ACLU, which argued the case, and halted school board elections in the district until a more equitable system was put in place.

According to St. Louis Public Radio, the district, along with the ACLU and the NAACP, will be responsible for educating voters about the new system.

The plaintiffs proposed three alternatives, but expressed a preference for the cumulative system, according to the judge's order. 

The school board attorney Cindy Ormsby told the news station that the board will meet next week to make a decision on whether to appeal.

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