Dotson v. Indianola Historic Case

At a Glance

Date Filed: 


Case Description 

Dotson v. City of Indianola, Mississippi is a case in which the city was compelled to comply with the Voting Rights Act.

The City of Indianola, Mississippi, annexed adjacent areas and thereby reduced its Black population from approximately 70 percent before 1964 to 46 percent at the time the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) lawsuit was filed in 1981. During the same period, the city refused to annex predominately Black areas.

A class action suit was brought by Black residents of Indianola and adjacent areas seeking to compel the city to comply with Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. According to Section 5, when a city covered by the act enacts changes in voting procedures, it must complete a pre-clearance process to ensure that the change will not adversely affect the voting rights of the minority community. Although annexation has been held to be a change covered by the act, Indianola failed to apply for pre-clearance.

Dotson was consolidated with Gregory v. Indianola, which successfully challenged the city’s at-large election process. Final settlement of the combined Dotson and Gregory lawsuit included an agreement that the adjacent, predominantly Black areas be incorporated into Indianola by 1989, and that a ward plan be implemented in future municipal elections.

In June 1987 special elections, Black candidates won three of five positions on Indianola’s governing board of alderpersons, bring to an end 101 years of white political control.