No answers in voting rights lawsuit

Fayette Commission, School Board mum on NAACP vote challenge; funding may drive settlement

Will 10 elected officials surrender or will they litigate?

And will money — or the lack of it — become the deciding factor in the biggest voting rights case ever to hit Fayette County?

Officials with Fayette County government and the Fayette County Board of Education are not divulging how they will address a lawsuit filed by the Fayette County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and 11 individual county residents.

Hanging in the balance is a potential seismic change to the way Fayette County residents elect members of the county commission and the board of education. Currently, any Fayette resident registered to vote can vote on all five members of each board.

But the NAACP wants both governing bodies to adopt a new scenario that would limit each resident to picking just one member on each board, with the express goal of creating a special “majority minority” district that would in theory guarantee a person of color would be elected to the school board and county commission in that district.

The side effect, however, is that district voting would severely restrict the political clout currently enjoyed by Fayette County voters of all colors: the chance to directly decide all five representatives of the school board and county commission.

The current scheme of all county voters voting for all members of both boards has been in place for decades before the county’s minority population grew beyond single digit percentages. The growth of minorities from under 5 percent of the population in the 1980s to nearly 20 percent in the 2010 census has changed the dynamics of the voting equation.

The NAACP lawsuit claims that Fayette’s current election system violates the federal Voting Rights Act. The suit was filed in federal court and barring any major developments to settle, it will be determined by a U.S. District Court judge.

While the county commission has hired a law firm that specializes in such cases, the cash-strapped board of education has decided to have its own contract attorney, Phillip Hartley, handle the case.

The county’s law firm, Strickland Brockington Lewis, is using demographers to analyze the data behind the NAACP’s claim along with a proposed new district map that was submitted by the NAACP to the county. Both county and NAACP representatives have declined to provide The Citizen with copies of the maps, citing a protection due to the maps being part of “attorney-client work product.”

The Citizen asked County Manager Jack Krakeel last week if any decisions have been made on a direction to take in the lawsuit, and whether the possibility has been explored of helping “share” the county law firm’s expertise with the board of education.

Krakeel would only reply, “We are still in the discovery phase.”

In other words, the commission is playing its hand close to its vest, at least at this point.

School board attorney Hartley also declined to comment about any details of the school system’s plans to address the lawsuit.

“It is not appropriate for me to comment on strategy decisions or possibilities that may or may not arise during the course of litigation. We will be representing the School District in this matter and will be glad to respond as events actually occur,” Hartley said.

The Citizen was hoping to divine some answers from the school system to the following questions:

• Do you intend to fight the lawsuit or go for settlement? And if you fight it, what potential time lines do you foresee?

• Do you have any idea to date on a general or specific cost for the litigation?

• Given the cost or any other factors, is settling out of court something you’re considering?

• What feedback on this matter are you getting from the community?

• Can your attorney provide us with proposed maps of the redrawn voting districts?

The Citizen also asked how the school system would pay to defend the lawsuit, whether Hartley has the expertise to handle the response to the complaint, and whether the school system might seek to cost share with the county to lessen the financial expense, given that there could be enough similarities between both cases to help shave costs.

School superintendent Jeff Bearden declined to make any comments, saying that the questions had to do with “pending litigation.”

For its part, county officials have previously noted they are trying to keep costs down in the litigation by, for example, limiting the number of experts sought early on.

In the federal complaint, a good bit of attention is paid to the 2006 special election for one of the seats on the county commission. In that election Robert Horgan, a white candidate, won a five-way race for a vacant seat on the Fayette County Board of Commissioners against four other black candidates. That race included two black Democratic candidates, Wendi Felton and Charles Rousseau, along with black Republican candidates Emory Wilkerson and Malcolm Hughes.

The suit does not, however, detail that while 51.7 percent of the voters chose Horgan, the remaining vote was split amongst the four black candidates, with Wilkerson leading the others with 29.05 percent of the vote. Nor does it provide a racial breakdown of how many voters supported which candidate.

The suit also focuses on the 2010 defeat of Laura Burgess, a black college professor who ran as a Democrat for an open seat on the Fayette County Board of Education against Republican challenger Sam Tolbert, a retired college professor. The suit claims that Burgess “received near unanimous support from black voters (99 percent) but less than 20 percent of white votes.”

Burgess only got 31.5 percent of the vote countywide, according to county election results.

While the suit does not touch on the subject, Burgess’ campaign was notable because she never responded to a list of questions submitted to all candidates by The Citizen newspaper, the results of which were subsequently published. Tolbert did respond to The Citizen’s questions, and his answers were published in the paper.

Also not mentioned in the suit, Burgess also declined to return a number of phone calls for comment placed by The Citizen during the campaign, although she spoke with a reporter once in May soon after she qualified.

 

— Additional reporting by Ben Nelms

S. Lindsey
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Never the less there is no "right" to vote

Does not matter how it has been abridged the Constitution does not give any individual the right to vote. JeffC and I have already hashed this one out. He too thought it did... it does not.

Davids mom
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Nuk

I understand - but in todays economy more citizens than you seem to realize are unable to do the simple thing like get a photo ID. I don't think a country like ours should have a large class of uneducated citizens - but we do! Even if they went to school - they are graduating without the skills necessary to form an educated/informed decision on many issues. (This is nothing new in our country - unfortunately.) An educated populace who feel they have the opportunity to contribute and succeed won't sit in parks throughout the world in anger and disgust with how the educated and powerful are conducting business. The US is not the only country with this problem today.

AtHomeGym
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Nuk & Voting

Tend to agree with you but you can't escape reality when one party or the other offers free smokes and a bus ride to vote for a specific candidate. I don't know if that's truly what happens, but it does get press, fact or fiction. We can only do what we, as individuals, think is right and be content with that. Truth is, there just ain't much that, collectively, we can't handle!!

Mike King
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DM

Mentally incapable of getting a job? That does leave an argument for being incapable of voting. Who chooses for an Alzheimer's patient? Does rounding up winos off the street seem the right thing to do? Should we place polling booths in our prisons? I could go on, but you get the picture.

I certainly don't have the answer to fit all, but should one revert back to those qualifications intended by the Framers, a photo ID would be the least of your worries.

No photo ID, no vote. My opinion.

Davids mom
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Mike

You are fortunate to be unfamiliar with the problems that many of our veterans are facing today with getting and holding on to a job. They do not have Alzheimers. . . But are capable of voting. Make a photo ID available to all. A veteran should have one, but I checked with my husband, and his photo ID from the military is not current. Is yours? I have a feeling that there are some who are completely unaware of the plight of a growing segment of our population. Make a photo ID available to all - so that not only a certain class of people can vote. . . . Or is that what we're trying to return to? The sad reality is, too many of the middle class have abandoned their responsibility IMHO. Hey, why the fear of 12% of the population?

G35 Dude
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DM and ID's

At least in Georgia anyone can get a photo ID at the DMV. Veterans can get them free I believe. And while I am familiar with the problems with some veterans, I'm also aware that while they may have earned the right to vote they may no longer have the capacity. They deserve our respect and all the care we can give them. But, as I have stated in past conversations between us, I believe that part of the problem with our system today is allowing many to vote that don't have the ability to do so. If they are incapable of getting a photo ID, I have no faith in their ability to make a good voting decision. So I have to agree with those here that say No ID, No vote.

Davids mom
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G35
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At least in Georgia anyone can get a photo ID at the DMV

True, if you have bus transportation, a car, money for a taxi, a good friend. In communities like Fayetteville, most of us could get to the DMV - what about other 'rural' 'suburban' areas in this state? All I'm sayin' is make available for all citizens. . .and take a legal photo when one registers if necessary and issue the ID after an e-verify check. Now what's threatening about that? The right and responsibility is given to all law abiding citizens by our Constitution and it's amendments.

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE

AtHomeGym
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DM & The Right To Vote

Sorry, no such thing in our Constitution. Individual States make their own rules, insuring that all will be unequal! We should all come down on the side of "informed voting", which in many cases, is highly unlikely, sad to say.

Davids mom
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AGH
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The right and responsibility is given to all law abiding citizens by our Constitution and it's amendments

Maybe our interpretation of the Constitution and its amendments is different:

15th Race cannot be used as a criteria for voting

19th Women have the right to vote

GREAT TO HAVE BASKETBALL BACK ON TV!!

AtHomeGym
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DM & Amendments

Yes, our reading & understanding may be different--I read those admendments as denying states the right to deny citizens to vote based on race or sex---I still see no overall "right to vote" anywhere. Not trying to be argumentative here, but just don't see that "right" you are so fond of quoting actually in writing anywhere-would be appreciative of help in finding such language.

Davids mom
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AHG

Enjoy your Christmas day.

G35 Dude
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AHG-Is the Constitution the only way to gain a right?
Quote:

Yes, our reading & understanding may be different--I read those admendments as denying states the right to deny citizens to vote based on race or sex---I still see no overall "right to vote" anywhere. Not trying to be argumentative here, but just don't see that "right" you are so fond of quoting actually in writing anywhere-would be appreciative of help in finding such language.

I'm not sure what point you're trying to make here. (Other than to be argumentative) But if you want someone to say that there is nothing in the constitution that states that we have a right to vote equal to a statement that we have a right to free speech you are correct. Yet it does say that officials will be elected by the people. (Except President who is chosen by electoral vote) Some may feel that leaves an implied right to vote. It then says that people can not be denied based on certain criteria. The balance of those who "have a right to vote" is decided by each state. In the beginning States actually had rights that exceeded those of the Federal Government. Now having said all of that for you, I will re-state my earlier accretion that a veteran that has fought for this country and still has the mental capacity HAS EARNED THE RIGHT TO VOTE. Maybe not in your eyes since the Constitution does not spell it out for you but in my eyes they should go first!

AtHomeGym
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G35, Vets & Voting

If you know my history, you should know that I will most likely never argue against vets. Now, just who judges "Mental Capacity"? I would argue that many who vote, regardless of vet status, do not have the mental capacity to originate an informed opinion about who is best qualified to serve in elected office. Your turn.

G35 Dude
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AHG-Who Judges?
Quote:

Now, just who judges "Mental Capacity"?

I guess the same people that decide it now. Doctors, Judges etc.

Quote:

I would argue that many who vote, regardless of vet status, do not have the mental capacity to originate an informed opinion about who is best qualified to serve in elected office. Your turn.

I have to concede that point to you since I've said much the same thing in the past. LOL

Davids mom
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Informed decision and 'mental capacity'

Two very different items IMO. Many 'bright and intelligent' citizens have made uninformed decisions at the local and national level. Many of our citizens make decisions based on their perspective only - and never take the time to try to understand the other's point of view. Compromise happens when one 'understands' the other point of view - and tries to reach some decision where both 'sides' get something - rather than hold up a solution due to stubbornness and inability to 'compromise'. (Courts and school records and medical records often define 'mental capacity'.) Many illnesses leave a person incapable of completing complicated tasks required on a job - but they are not mentally incapacitated. One passes a test to become a citizen; one receives a certain level of education by a certain age. It will be difficult to revise the 'voting rights test' in this country, especially in a state that is 48 out of 50 in academic achievement. Most citizens are inundated with information during an election year. . . unfortunately over half of our citizens don't bother to vote.

G35 Dude
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DM
Quote:

True, if you have bus transportation, a car, money for a taxi, a good friend. In communities like Fayetteville, most of us could get to the DMV - what about other 'rural' 'suburban' areas in this state? All I'm sayin' is make available for all citizens. . .and take a legal photo when one registers if necessary and issue the ID after an e-verify check. Now what's threatening about that? The right and responsibility is given to all law abiding citizens by our Constitution and it's amendments.

No disagreement with that!

AtHomeGym
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Vets & "earning the right to vote

Don't know what that means--and is not relevant to the subject at hand. "May no longer have the capacity"---what does that mean?'
Howdoes one "earnthe right to vote"?

G35 Dude
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AHG

The post was intended for DM. She'll understand. But if you read Mike Kings post to her and her response to him you should be able to pick up the gist of it. If not I'm afraid I can't help you.

hutch866
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Dm

I believe most these voter ID bills carry provisions for giving out free ID's, it's just glossed over in the argument against the bills.

Davids mom
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Hutch

Like the one bus that was going to cover Georgia in taking photos for the free ID? What's important in any bill is the plan for implementation.

carbonunit52
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NUK_1, you are being too cerebral on this issue

As with guns and abortion, those that want free access see any restrictions as a threat and common sense solutions are not even considered. Humans are too emotional to be rational (see Politics for a vivid example).

SPQR
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carbon unit

There are some who disagree with you on the rationality statement. let's see if you get the push back I got

carbonunit52
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SPQR,

I believe the blogger who replied to your statement on the subject has decided that I am incorrigible, so I don't expect anything there. I agree with the conclusion that humans are not rational, they rationalize, and are pretty darn good at it too. Why else would we be considering a trip to Mars?

SPQR
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Carbon unit

Probably sent by V'ger.

Merry Christmas

Cyclist
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Another point of view of Voter ID

Source WSJ:

Artur Davis, a former member of the Congressional Black Caucus from Alabama who left office last year, defended voter ID requirements and said the only people harmed are those attempting to skirt the law.

"Voter fraud is something that does happen. It's a lot more likely to happen in rural communities. It's a lot more likely to happen in communities were one political machine is trying to hold on to power," said Mr. Davis. "And in virtually every campaign that I ran in my district, there were a few counties where I had to worry about the ballots being cooked, where you knew that you were going to lose a certain number of absentee ballots. And you had to offset it on Election Day. And you knew that's the way politics was practiced."

Mr. Davis said the argument that showing identification to vote is too cumbersome is specious. "If you try to cash a check in his country, you better have an ID. If you want to get on a plane, you better have an ID. If you want to get in a building in New York or Washington, D.C., chances are you better have an ID -- whether it's a government building or a private building in many cases. I don't think it's unreasonable to say that if we have this standard for all the other things that we do, that we should have them for voting too."

But with all this said you can still submit an absentee ballot without an ID. So go figure.

Davids mom
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Cyclist
Quote:

But with all this said you can still submit an absentee ballot without an ID. So go figure.

Right! (But you need an address to get an absentee ballot in many cases.) There are those who feel that citizens in this condition shouldn't be voting anyway. Actually, in today's economy, skin color doesn't have too much to do with being homeless. Sad. IMHO No address - no rights. Hmmmmm.

hutch866
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Don't

You need an address to vote in any case?

Davids mom
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Hutch

Having never been without an address - I really don't know. Would be worth finding out. In Los Angeles, in the 70's, we had to build two schools in the downtown area for children who were living in abandoned office buildings - and could not give us an address. (A legal address) Many of these students were NOT MINORITIES OR ILLEGALS. It is sad that often the real problem of the poor in this country is addressed as if it is only a 'minority' problem. Just saying.

hutch866
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Dm

Doesn't your address decide where you vote? Let's see, no address, no ID, I guess you can vote several times in several locations. What's to prevent that?

Davids mom
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Hutch

No address - you're not on anyones list -right? No assigned polling place. A picture ID verifies you're who you say you are.
Possibly don't need an address. For citizens without a bank account, drivers license, etc., etc. - But why worry, ... We can't get more than 50% of eligible registered voters to vote! If we say that all registered voters can vote - and a segment of those registered don't live the lifestyle where they would automatically have a picture ID, then a reasonable plan should be available to them to get that ID - better than counting beans in a jar. Don't worry, just like eligible voters were registered in the past, we will do the right thing to make sure a citizen is not denied this opportunity to participate in the election process. The courts are working on it. We have overcome the hanging chads, we'll overcome this not so subtle attempt at controlling the vote.

Davids mom
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Rigging the election

Suggarfoot, how would that work in Fayetteville? Looking at the percentage of voters in certain polling areas - is there a black block? Many developments in the Fayetteville area have discussed having a representative that votes their interests and concerns. These developments are very integrated - even Whitewater Creek. The voters in the last election in Fayetteville said goodbye to incumbents - and elected new representatives, including a black man. Let progress continue without bringing out the 'racism' that Fayette County was known for 20-30 years ago. Let progress continue. Fortunately or unfortunately, I don't know the black politician involved with the local NAACP - but district voting can benefit other than 'black folks'.

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