Leah Aden

  • November 27, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Leah Aden, LDF Senior Counsel

    *This piece was originally posted on Medium.

    In 2020, the federal government will undertake the monumental and important task of attempting to count each person residing within our country’s borders. An exercise that has taken place every 10 years, since 1790, and is mandated by the U.S. Constitution, it cannot be overstated how important the Census is to the well-functioning, representative democracy that our country strives to be. The Black community that the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), where I work, serves, has a lot to lose if they, like other communities of color, are not counted fairly and accurately in the 2020 Census.

  • May 29, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Leah Aden, Assistant Counsel, Political Participation Group, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund

    When Black voters in Fayette County, Georgia took to the polls during a primary election earlier this month, they experienced, for the first time in the county’s 191-year history, the opportunity to elect their candidates of choice to the Board of Commissioners and Board of Education.

    It is more than just serendipity that this election took place almost exactly 60 years to the day that our nation celebrated the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education on May 17, 1954. Brown ended legally enforced segregation in our country’s public schools and overturned the "separate but equal" doctrine that segregated all aspects of American society. The Brown decision also breathed life into the Civil Rights movement, which in turn led to the creation of the Voting Rights Acts of 1965, widely considered the movement’s greatest victory.

    But for the voters of Fayette County, that victory was a long time coming. Prior to the historic election in May 2014, Fayette County used at-large voting to maintain a racially segregated Board of Commissioners and Board of Education. Although Black voters comprise nearly 20 percent of Fayette County’s population, are geographically concentrated within the County, and consistently vote together to attempt to elect candidates of their choice, no Black candidate has ever been elected to either body under the at-large system of election. Indeed, because Black-preferred candidates are not meaningfully supported by white voters, who comprise 70 percent of Fayette County’s population, those candidates cannot win a county-wide election under the at-large electoral scheme.

  • February 10, 2014
    Guest Post
    by Leah Aden, Assistant Counsel, Political Participation Group, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
     
    * Ms. Aden is a member of the litigation team in Terrebonne Parish Branch NAACP et al. v. Jindal et al.
     
    Last week, nearly 60 years after the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc’s (LDF) client, Autherine Lucy, sought to become the first Black student to integrate the University of Alabama, LDF and cooperating Louisiana attorney Ronald L. Wilson filed a federal lawsuit to empower Black voters in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana to elect their candidates of choice for the 32nd Judicial District Court for the first time in the Parish’s history.
     
    The lawsuit, Terrebonne Parish Branch NAACP et al. v. Jindal et al., filed on behalf of the Terrebonne Parish Branch NAACP and several Black voters in Terrebonne, challenges the Parish’s at-large method of electing judges for this state court as a violation of the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution.
     
    For nearly two centuries, Terrebonne Parish has used at-large voting to maintain a racially segregated 32nd Judicial District Court. That system for electing judges has guaranteed that Black voters, in spite of having tried in election after election, cannot elect their judges of choice for this court. As a result, a Black candidate has never been elected as a judge on the 32nd Judicial District Court. Meanwhile, a sitting judge on this parish court has been suspended for wearing blackface, an orange prison jumpsuit, handcuffs, and an afro wig to a Halloween party as part of his offensive parody of a Black prison inmate.
     
    This lawsuit seeks to bring greater inclusion and democratic legitimacy to Terrebonne Parish’s political process through district-based voting. For too long, at-large voting, in combination with racial bloc voting, has functioned as a structural wall of exclusion to this parish court.  Although Black voters comprise nearly 20 percent of the Parish’s voting-age population, and consistently vote together in parish-wide elections, the at-large electoral method dilutes their cohesive vote for their preferred candidates of choice.