Where's the ACLU?

In the last century, I took an interest in the lack of a ward system in Charlottesville, which seemed to coincide with Democratic majorities on the City Council ["Poor and ignored? Schilling makes the case," News, March 18].

The ACLU had participated by the mid-'90s in 18 lawsuits concerning voting practices which frequently related to the lack of a ward system in a sued community, thereby prejudicing the voting power of minorities.

After some correspondence, it seemed to me they were not interested in Charlottesville's lack of wards: The existing system there resulted in Democratic councils. This was even though most of the councilors at the time lived in the same neighborhood or potential ward. The ACLU's responses focused narrowly on whether the city had "a compact racial population" which had been "unable to get elected under the current electoral plan."

They did not show any interest in the fact that, while the council usually had a racial minority Democrat, it had failed to seat any racial minority Republicans. Consequently, it was unclear whether they were interested in a two-party system or just in electing Democrats.

Certainly they have not used their awesome legal powers to that end here as they have in more conservative communities. Accordingly, while wards seem the answer to a healthy two-party system, they have been resisted in Charlottesville by the ACLU and the Democrats.

William W. Stevenson
Charlottesville