Appeal seeks overturn of commission elections

The federal court battle over the new five-district map for electing representatives to the Fayette County Commission is apparently not yet over. Local attorney Wayne Kendall has filed an appeal with the U.S. 11th Circuit of Appeals in an attempt to overturn the map on the basis that District Judge Timothy C. Batten did not hold a hearing prior to issuing the final ruling in the case, and other technicalities.

Kendall said recently that the procedural errors in the matter, in his opinion, give his clients a good shot at overturning the results of the 2012 county commission elections.

The new map was adopted in February by the county commission for the purpose of creating districts that were balanced by population. The previous three-district map, which dates back at least several decades, hadn’t been updated since the county’s population boom began in the 1980s, and as a result the three districts had become significantly out of whack.

The new map hit a snag at the state capitol when the legislature failed to consider it prior to the end of the session, a matter that Fayette Rep. Virgil Fludd blamed on missed deadlines due to public advertising requirements.

The issue was revived by a federal court lawsuit filed by Peachtree City attorney Rick Lindsey which resulted in the court ordering the application of the new balanced five-district map. That same map received pre-clearance from the U.S. Department of Justice and was used in the July primary and November general elections.

Five months later, Kendall sought to reopen the case before Judge Batten, contending that his clients, Ali Adbur-Rahman and Aisha Abdur-Rahman, were harmed by the implementation of the map. Batten ruled against the Abdur-Rahmans and denied their motion to re-open the case.

The timing of that filing has been brought into question with allegations from Fayette County Attorney Scott Bennett that Kendall threatened to seek the reopening of the case if Bennett didn’t convince the county commission to drop the district voting lawsuit brought in federal court by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Bennett’s allegations have been supported by the affidavits of several attorneys representing the county, and Bennett has claimed that Kendall was taken off the district voting case because of the threat which was made while Kendall was helping represent the NAACP.

In the district voting lawsuit, the NAACP is joined by several local residents as defendants, in asking the federal court to impose district voting in Fayette County to make it easier for black residents to elect “the candidate of their choice” to the county commission and also the Fayette County Board of Education.

The catch is that district voting would limit residents to voting for just one of the five representatives on each board, depending on their geographic location. Under Fayette’s current at-large voting system, all county residents get to vote for all five members of both boards.

The NAACP early this summer was unable to convince Judge Batten to throw out the five-district map, as Batten noted the proposed five-district map drawn by the NAACP did not mesh with case law that requires a new district map to have a majority-minority district in which the number of voting age black residents is greater than 50 percent.

The NAACP’s proposed map, which stretches from Tyrone through unincorporated north Fayette County and into part of Fayetteville reaches just over the 47 percent mark, a bit short of the majority required by case law cited by Batten.

The district voting case is expected to come to a final resolution sometime next year.