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LDF joins lawsuit challenging racist electoral practices in Newbern

The plaintiffs claim that they have continually faced unlawful discrimination in attempting to vote and hold office in Newbern.

Patrick Braxton is the first Black mayor of Newbern, but white citizens tried to keep him from assuming the role. (Photo by Michael Malcolm)

The Legal Defense Fund on Tuesday joined a federal lawsuit challenging racially discriminatory voting and electoral practices in Newbern, Ala.

The lawsuit, filed in March 2023 on behalf of plaintiffs Patrick Braxton and other Black Newbern residents, alleges that the Town of Newbern failed to properly hold elections and unlawfully prevented the town’s first Black mayor and first majority-Black town council from fulfilling their official duties.

The plaintiffs claim that they have continually faced unlawful discrimination in attempting to vote and hold office in Newbern. As originally reported by Lee Hedgepeth, Newbern has not held mayoral elections for decades. After the first Black mayor, Patrick Braxton, came into office in November 2020, Newbern residents arranged an illegal special election that intentionally prevented Mayor Braxton from appointing a majority-Black town council and Newbern voters from electing their candidate of choice for town council.

A new amended complaint by LDF adds two new claims alleging that the town’s voting and electoral practices violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. The complaint also asks the court to order new elections for town council and for defendants to follow Alabama law, which specifies how elections should be held.

“The repeated failure of Newbern officials to hold or give notice for a municipal election — for decades — is unfortunately emblematic of ongoing attacks against Black voters,” said LDF Senior Counsel Morenike Fajana. “It is imperative that courts step in to ensure that everyone’s right to vote is protected.”

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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