Alabama Town Refuses To Allow Elections Or Let Black Mayor Serve: Lawsuit

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A small town in Alabama hasn't held a political election in decades and white officials aren't allowing its first Black mayor to exercise his duties, according to a lawsuit.

The Legal Defense Fund recently filed a preliminary injunction to force the town of Newbern, which has a population of roughly 133 people, to allow citizens to vote in an election for the first time in years, per The Guardian. The preliminary injunction comes after a lawsuit filed last year alleged that white town officials had manipulated the political process to strip Black residents of their voting power.

Alleged political corruption in the town came to a head when Patrick Braxton became the first Black mayor in Newbern's history. Braxton assumed the mayoral position in 2020 by default when he filed for office and no one else, including the previous mayor, did.

Prior to Braxton filing for office, Newbern mayors were appointed or ran unopposed, serving in the position for over 10 years in some cases.

According to the lawsuit, former mayor Haywood “Woody” Stokes III and his majority-white town council held a secret, special election in 2020 to block Braxton from appointing his own council and exercising his mayoral duties. The previous town council re-elected themselves and reappointed Stokes as mayor.

“[They’re] so stuck in their ways and don’t want nothing else for the town. They just want it to stay the same,” Braxton previously said. “I hope they break and just go ahead and release everything to me. If not, we’ll just go to court.”

White officials don't recognize Braxton's position, but he continues to use his own funds to host events and food distribution drives in the town.

The lawsuit seeks to give all Newbern residents the opportunity to vote.

“For decades, officials in my town have excluded me and other voters from participating in elections and having a say in what happens here,” Braxton said in a statement provided by the LDF. “Voting is not a privilege; it is a responsibility in helping to shape the direction and priorities of our community. We want to ensure our voices are heard and votes are counted. We ask the courts to enforce elections in Newbern this November so that we can cast our ballots and actively participate in the democratic process.”

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