Majority-Black city in Alabama elects predominantly Black council in historic first

Majority-Black city in Alabama elects predominantly Black council in historic first
© Kevin Dunn via DeShanna Hampton/ Face Photography and Media LLC

Voters in Pleasant Grove, a predominantly Black city in Alabama, have elected a majority of Black candidates to serve on the city council in a historic first.  

According to The Guardian, up until this week, the town had never before elected a Black person to serve on the council. But after this past election on Tuesday, three out of five of the city council’s seats are slated to be filled by Black councilors.

The historic moment comes two years after NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Alabama voting rights attorney Jim Blacksher filed a lawsuit against the city on behalf of two local voters challenging the town’s at-large method of voting in an election. 

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The suit alleged that the method of voting violated the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments as well as the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and kept Black candidates from being elected.

“At-large voting requires all voters to cast a ballot for all five members of the City Council. Candidates must run from numbered places and receive a majority of the vote to win. In places like Pleasant Grove where the white majority votes against the candidates preferred by Black voters, at-large elections effectively lock Black voters out of local government,” the group said at the time.

The lawsuit was settled late last year and, as a result, the city – which census data shows had a population of less than 10,000 people in 2019 – agreed to change its method of voting to cumulative voting, which allows voters as many votes as there are candidates, and they may give all their votes to a single candidate 

Almost a year after the settlement was approved, Pleasant Grove voters on Tuesday elected Black candidates to the city council for the first time, thus establishing its first predominantly Black council.

Kevin “K.D.” Dunn, one of the Black city council candidates who won this week, spoke to The Hill on Wednesday about his victory.

Dunn said in the interview that his main reason for running "was not to create a historical moment," but instead "was just to try to enhance the quality of the city."

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Dunn said he thinks the recent election helped re-energize his community and added that he "would definitely agree to the fact that there was an overwhelming majority of citizens that wanted to see change and they received change."

He also said he thinks the lawsuit "was definitely a catalyst to get us to where we’re at right now" in addition to voter turnout. 

"They wanted to see fresh blood, they wanted to hear fresh ideas from their elected officials, essentially that’s what they received and it’s a great an epic moment," he said.