Broken electoral systems damage illusion of equality

As a country built on the democratic process, the United States—and the South in particular—has had to overcome systematic hurtles to ensure that elections were fair, all-encompassing, and as representative as possible.
Perhaps most notably, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was created by Congress to outlaw discriminatory voting practices that disproportionately affect minority populations. At the time, this looked like removing literacy tests and other direct barriers to voting.
However, indirect barriers and their effects are still being felt throughout the South. One of the most pervasive examples of this is an at-large voting system. This winner-take-all approach involves each representative being elected by the majority of people in the city as a whole. In this system, if a district has a 30 percent minority population, their likelihood of electing their representative of choice is slim, since they do not make up a majority.
In a single-member district electoral system, this same population stands a much greater chance of being equally represented. If this city was separated into 10 fairly-drawn districts, the minority population would likely make up a majority in three of them.
Allison Riggs, a staff attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, went before the Hickory City Council to speak against this system.
“At-large elections, even in the slightly modified form here in Hickory, are often a structural barrier to the ability of minority voters to participate in the political process and elect their candidates of choice,” Riggs said. “This kind of defeat is precisely the policy justification for a move to a true single-member electoral district system.”
Unfortunately, this is not the case in towns such as Hickory, NC. During the 2009 municipal elections, an African American candidate, Z. Anne Hoyle won the primary in District 4, over a white candidate. She then was defeated in the city-wide election where voters other than those who resided in her district voted for the white candidate. In Ward 4, Hoyle won the primary with 59.5 percent of the vote. Her closest rival, also an African American, received 40.5 percent. In the general election, Hoyle only received 29.21 percent of the vote.