Justice Dept. OK's Fayette Commission 5-district map
The U.S. Department of Justice has approved the new five-district map for the seats on the Fayette County Board of Commissioners, clearing the way for it to be used in the upcoming election.
Qualifying for the post 1, 2 and 3 seats on the commission will start Wednesday, May 30 at 9 a.m. and end Friday, June 1 at noon for the July 31 primary election and the subsequent general election in November. The seats are currently held by Robert Horgan, Herb Frady and Lee Hearn, though Frady announced this week he would not seek re-election.
Qualifying for the commission seats was delayed earlier this week by order of U.S. District Judge Timothy Batten at the request of the county. County officials wanted to wait until the Justice Department had approved the map to avoid any potential legal conflicts in the future.
The five-district map is a change from the commission’s previous three-district map as it assigns new geographical districts to the two countywide posts currently held by Commissioners Steve Brown and Allen McCarty, whose seats are not up for election this year.
The new voting scheme represented by the map retains at-large voting, which means that all county voters will be able to vote on all five seats on the commission irrespective of which geographical district they live in.
It is not known if the Justice Department approval of the new map might somehow impact the pending lawsuit filed by the Fayette County and national branches of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which seeks to eliminate at-large voting in favor of district voting for both the county commission and the Fayette County Board of Education. The letter of approval from the DOJ notes that its approval can be challenged in court “in subsequent litigation.”
The BoE election, which has three seats up for grabs this year, will occur under its “old” or existing five-district map. That also means that despite the BoE’s intention to settle the NAACP lawsuit and enact district voting, the BoE posts will remain at large for this election, which means all county voters will be able to vote for the three posts up for election, currently held by Janet Smola, Marion Key and Terri Smith.
Qualifying for those posts ends tomorrow (Friday) at noon.
The new commission map has taken a long and winding path to legitimacy. Its origins sprung from the district voting lawsuit, leading to a Valentine’s Day special called meeting approval from the commission so the map could be forwarded to the General Assembly in time. But the legislature never voted on the change, and that led to a separate lawsuit filed by Peachtree City attorney Rick Lindsey seeking to force the county to implement the five-district map because the three-districts were out of proportion to the degree where it endangered the application of the principle of “one person, one vote.”
Lindsey’s lawsuit was victorious, as Judge Batten approved the map which allowed the county to submit it to the justice department for consideration nearly two months ago.