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No answers in voting rights lawsuit

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

Location: 

Comments

A Bank will take anyones money without photo ID. You can use a SS card to do this.

NUK_1's picture

No photo ID and you cannot open a bank account. "Know Your Customer" laws(part of original Patriot Act) to prevent money-laundering and terrorism financing, etc. Sure, if u already have a bank account, they aren't likely to ask for ID for every transaction, but you can forget opening an account without photo ID.

Good point Hutch. What do you think motivates this fear of almost non-existent voter fraud? Who is it of the millions of non-voters in this country that causes this concern?

Mike King's picture

We both realize that anyone utilizing 'check to bank' had to initiate the process with a picture ID. What's your point?

Are you implying that I am somewhat biased?

Biased? Aren't we all? See the question I asked Hutch.

[quote]Good point Hutch. What do you think motivates this fear of almost non-existent voter fraud? Who is it of the millions of non-voters in this country that causes this concern?[/quote]

Robert W. Morgan's picture

BTW, how does she know that? Is a different ballot for blacks and whites and others?
Anyway, I guess the contention is that if you have the overwhelming support of the black voters, you should be considered elected. Wonder if that same logic will be applied to a white candidate or an Oriental one?

And since Ms. Burgess won't talk to the media or make any pronouncements about her platform or qualifications, it would seem that her only qualification is being black. This is difficult to understand when approached logically. I wonder what kind of college professor she is?

As I have said before - just roll over and give up and not waste money on lawyers. Let district voting begin. Maybe even have a do-over on the Horgan election. But wait, there are 4 black candidates so how do we sort that out? The one with the most votes? No, he's white. The non-white with the most votes? No, that's under 50%. Hmmm. we got a real dilemma here. Maybe elect all 4 black candidates and they could take turns - 3 months each year.

Live free or die!

SPQR's picture

Could the county start a legal defense fund?

Dondol's picture

Ivan Allen gave up Atlanta years ago, I guess the Blacks think we should do the same, because your know, they are Special! Just get out and Vote, they are still only 12.6% of the national population people!

Are you implying that Ivan Allen did not support integration in Atlanta? Please read your own history. The mistake that Ivan Allen made was consecrating solely on the building of downtown Atlanta and building a strong middle class - both black and white - and neglecting making provisions for the poor and underemployed. (black and white) The unrest in the mid 60's was directly attached to that. Our country is about to make the same mistake as other countries in building beautiful buildings, great freeways, and neglecting the homeless and the citizens who live under the freeways. Ivan Allen saw that he would not get support for taking action to correct this in 66 or 67 and decided not to run for office. He is still highly respected in the Black community today for his opposition to segregation. As I've said before, we all interpret 'history' from our own perspective. No one has adequately answered my question: Where is there a black residential area in Fayette County other then Country Lakes? (I'm sorry if I missed the answer) The Citizen's not so subtle attempt in bringing out the racism in this county will not help the BOE's case at all. The posts in this blog will assure a judge that there is a problem in Fayette County in 2011. Maybe you should ask all of the citizens if they would like to have a representative that represented their community concerns on the Council and/or BOE. Most middle class communities in Fayette County are now well integrated. Some Middle Class citizens do vote. . .

I think people voted for Edward Johnson for his words - and not his skin color. I may be wrong.

hutch866's picture

Hampstead Heath, Country Lakes, Northridge, Providence, pretty much that whole stretch of 279 from 314 to 138, and the north end of 314.

I yam what I yam

Thanks!

Isn't it possible to see if the areas mentioned in Hutch's post voted as a 'black block'? Interesting that the media is again trying to get 'facts' that are not yet in evidence.

If a judge used cmts from this blog to influence any sort of decision, that would surely border on a miscarriage of justice! Or in other words, using public pap and pablum to form a decision instead of legal precedent and constitutional (State & US) law.

You're absolutely right.

Dondol's picture

"Maybe you should ask all of the citizens if they would like to have a representative that represented their community concerns on the Council and/or BOE. Most middle class communities in Fayette County are now well integrated."

DM, you are right most of Fayette is integrated, so why the big push from the NAACP to change what is obviously working. Unless someone wants the type on representation that they have from the illustrious David Scott.
And Ivan Allen didn't make the decision not to run on his own, he was told that he would not be backed by the party, not my interpretation of history, I was here and lived it. What you also have to understand is that I don't vote party lines, I vote for the most qualified person. Period.

Sorry, I have no idea why the push from the NAACP. I understand that the constiuents of David Scott feel he represents them quite well - he's continually re-elected. It's their choice. We have our choice. . .right?

Good for you!!

.[quote] Ivan Allen saw that he would not get support for taking action to correct this in 66 or 67 and decided not to run for office[/quote]

I think the concept is the same. History is histrory.

It's interesting that the plight of the poor often ties in directly with the plight of the minorities in this country. Some feel that MLK was killed because he was taking the 'equal rights' thing too far by including his concern for the poor in our country which would unite 'white' and 'black'. Those of us who are fortunate to live in a city like Fayetteville, GA sometimes forget that all Americans are not so blessed. I'm enjoying multi-tasking today as I look forward to family and friends on this most special celebration of the Christ. Have a wonderful, peaceful holiday. Yup, I'll still express my opinion next year. LOL Peace.

Cyclist's picture

Same back at you and give your mom a hug.

Caution - The Surgeon General has determined that constant blogging is an addiction that can cause a sedentary life style.

My ID card reflects "Indef" for expiration date--don't know why your husband's would not reflect the same. Now ID cards issued to dependents DO have an expiration date--believe they're good for 3 or 4 yrs. And I do believe GA offers a free photo ID for purpose of voting.

suggarfoot's picture

when you run and don't raise concerns till after you ...lose...it really makes you look like a sore looser, not someone with a logical reason for a lawsuit. But then the NAACP has money to burn/bully for lawsuits.

The more I hear about 'we want to redraw the lines so we can win'...or 'we want one of us in office even though we didn't win a fair election'...'we need a person of color' to represent us..(whitie apparently can't)

The more I hear it seems to scream we want 'equal but separate'. Isn't that going ...backwards..just to win an election? The more whinning I hear...the more obvious this country is going backwards just to make 12% happy.

suggarfoot's picture

that I feel strongly, of the 12%, there is only about 1% that is doing all the complaining.

Conservatives are so very clever. They develop outrage over a non-existent problem--voter fraud. (How many cases of voter fraud in Fayette County? in Georgia? Answer is 0 to very, very few.)

Then the conservatives enact a "solution" to the non-existent problem--requiring certain types of picture ID to vote.

And who are most likely to have such ID? middle class Republicans. Who are least likely to have such ID? poor and minority Democratic voters. So surprise, conservative Republicans benefit.

Nothing racist about the conservative remedy we are told.

But it is in the grand Southern white tradition of poll taxes and literacy tests to vote. Nothing discriminatory on the face of those laws but the result was to keep blacks from voting.

Why are some states trying to turn the clock back to the bad old days?

lion

Fear of losing perceived superiority/power; fear of change; fear of what the Time Magazine announced years ago - the 'browning' of America. It is obvious that one is not considered 'superior' by the current generation simply because of the color of their skin. But to lose perceived power to a group that is different is frightening to some. Why? Because some people have never accepted all citizens of this country as American. The citizens of Fayette County/Fayetteville could be a role model to the rest of the country - modeling how Americans can live side by side with one another and build a harmonious community. IMHO.

suggarfoot's picture

Many of us will never agree that Bush won that election.

If we make it as simple to vote as whipping out nothing to vote...corruption will run rampant by both blacks and whites. Do you think whites won't think of it too?

When I was a little girl, I remember all the people in the cemetaries voted!

It did not take me to long to find a number of voter fraud cases including one as recent as this past year involving 12 officials so to say this problem is non-existent is further from the truth than you might think.
Voter ID is a necessity and allowing anyone to vote without any kind of ID is a mistake which could lead to demise of this country. While no system is ever going to be perfect, requiring someone to present a voter ID card would make fraud less likely to occur. It ensures only those who are entitled to vote, are allowed to do so.
A buddy of mine suggested an idea a few years back which could work. Upon your 18th birthday or Naturalization, you present the necessary paperwork to your local registrar office who then issues you a voter ID which looks like a credit card. The magnetic strip contains all of your information and also lists what elections you are eligible to vote in. On election day, you swipe your card in the voting machine and only those ballots appear which you are entitled to vote for. Upon successful submission of your ballot, your voter ID is prohibited from voting again that day. In the case of Absentee voting, your ID is printed on the form in the way of a barcode. The barcode is scanned when received and entered as a valid ballot upon confirmation one has not been already submitted.
By the way, I am also all for checking immigration status at polling places. In 1996, Bill Clinton (yes, Bill Clinton) signed The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. Section 347 makes aliens who have unlawfully voted in violation of any Federal, State, or local constitutional provision, statute, ordinance, or regulation is both excludable and deportable (under INA §212(a)(10)(D) and INA §241(a)(6), respectively).
The word aliens refers to anyone who is not a "US Citizen", it does not matter if you are here on a work visa, student visa, are a permanent resident, ilegal or whatever. Of O had my way I would have I.C.E. agents at every polling place loading up buses of non-citizens who are committing a federal crime.

You might want to read this. LAPD is famous for 'just the facts mam'.

http://www.brennancenter.org/content/resource/policy_brief_on_the_truth_...

Cyclist's picture

Eric "Gun Broker" Holder, Emperor of the Justice Department, has so decreed that South Carolina cannot use its voter ID program to prevent voter fraud. The Emperor is using the Voting Rights Act (VRA) to twist the arm of that state's Constitutional government. South Carolina can proceed via another tack so it will be interesting to see what's next.

Of course, with all this said, the US Supreme Court already ruled that voter ID, at least in Indiana, is legal. One big difference is that Indiana is not bound by the VRA.

Now, the big mess to come....well that would be Obama Care or whatever you wish to call it. Lots of fraud and there is no real way to combat it without a verifiable national ID system.

Caution - The Surgeon General has determined that constant blogging is an addiction that can cause a sedentary life style.

<strong>Verifiable ID system </strong> 200+ years and we don't have one yet except driver's license, etc. (And you know you can buy that anywhere - even here in Georgia. I'm not sure if they have 'hacked' the e-verify system) No matter our politics, just make the so-called Voter ID available to all regardless of race, religion, gender, income, education.
This proposal of not allowing the poor and undereducated to vote will be fought in the courts and non-violently in the streets. Why foster another mess? By the way, under Obamacare, my medicare premium has gone down - and my friends are allowed to have their recently graduated, unemployed children to continue on their health insurance, (Which by the way is not 'government' insurance) The GOP candidates are vacillating back and forth - depending who they're talking to. Both ideologies have their positive and negative points. . .the ignorance lies in the fact that it is obvious that politics is more important than the American people. The Independents are listening - and there is more negative 'stuff' about the Republican candidates than Obama! (Thanks to this long, long primary process)

S. Lindsey's picture

"The federal government announced Wednesday that seniors on Social Security will receive a 3.6 percent cost of living increase in 2012, the first raise since 2009.
The average beneficiary will receive $38 more a month for a total of $1,120.
But part of that extra income may be eaten away by higher premiums for Medicare, the federal health insurance program for people over 65. The federal government will announce the 2012 premium for Medicare Part B (outpatient care) later this month. It is expected to be $106.60, which is $10 higher than what most Medicare beneficiaries currently pay. (New Medicare beneficiaries and high-income seniors already pay a higher premium.)"

Read more: http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Social-Security-up-38-Medicare-c...

"Whoever claims the right to redistribute the wealth produced by others is claiming the right to treat human beings as chattel."

-Ayn Rand

Thanks for the information. I don't get social security - and my medicare premium went down! Go figure.

NUK_1's picture

In the USA, there were 217 million current drivers licenses in 2010 for people 18 and older according to the DOT. There are roughly 208 million registered voters in this country. So 9 million already have photo ID and just don't care about voting enough to even bother registering.

We certainly agree here!! That is a true tragedy when so many have sacrificed their lives for us to have this privilege. Sad.

If voter fraud was a problem that needed to be addressed (which it was not), Georgia Republicans could have done several things. They could have funded a publicity campaign, like that against drunk driving, warning people of the penalties for voter fraud and that the law would be enforced. They could have increased the criminal penalties for voter fraud. They could have made a major effort to educate poll workers on how to recognize real voter fraud. And there may have been other steps that could have been taken.

But the Republican motive for voter picture ID was always political. Republicans knew the voter ID law would work adversely impact mainly the poor and minorities, groups that tend to vote heavily Democratic. The law would have minimal impact on those who tend to vote Republican.

The Georgia voter ID law clearly discriminates on a racial basis and is a violation of the Federal Voting Rights Act.

lion

NUK_1's picture

[quote=lion]
The Georgia voter ID law clearly discriminates on a racial basis and is a violation of the Federal Voting Rights Act.[/quote]

Who do you think the photo ID affects more of, white or black people? You realize that by sheer numbers there are quite a lot more "poor" white people than poor black people, right? Go ahead and combine poor blacks and Hispanics together and guess what? Still more poor white people than both of those combined.

The Supreme Court already decided a few years ago(again) that requiring photo ID does NOT violate the Voting Rights Act or any other laws at all, so that's the reality and also why more states are adopting laws requiring it. All Eric Holder did with SC is throw a bone to Obama's political allies who have been raising hell about more and more states adopting photo ID laws. Justice Dept action on this issue is rather meaningless since all SC is going to to do is take it to federal court and get it approved by the court instead of Justice.

Since u like polls so much, here's a Rasmussen one: 69% of Americans agree with voter ID laws.

In Georgia, there are a lot of 'poor' whites who would have difficulty getting a legal photo ID. They don't work for a government agency; they don't have a car; they don't have transportation to a DMV; they don't have credit cards or use a bank. Unfortunately, GA has legislators who still try to circumvent the VRA - and for this reason are under scrutiny Oh yes, there are also poor blacks who would be affected. Bigfoot had a strategy for making sure all had an equal opportunity to get a legal photo ID.
There are other states that have solved this problem. The <strong>ONE BUS </strong>solution didn't pass the muster.

carbonunit52's picture

I think that focusing on whether or not to have a picture ID to have your vote counted is taking your eye off of the ball and a requirement to have a photo ID for this need not work against anyone. The real issue is having your vote counted. The first and most obvious step is actually making the effort and placing a vote, next is having it validated and finally counted. In the 2000 vote there were enough registered voters from predominantly black areas in Duval county FL that were not able to place their votes to make the hanging chads issue in south FL a moot point. Allowing everyone who wants to participate in voting do so and holding votes that may be questionable until they are validated would go a lot further toward fairness. The ball in play here is the act of placing your vote and the most effective method of disenfranchisement is to foster peoples' feeling that their vote does not count, or worse, to develop attitudes of rebellion against the process, stinking up the place in other words. This is where politicians with agendas that do not include the common good have shown a particular adeptness.

kevink's picture

http://m.yahoo.com/w/news_america/police-nj-educator-videotaped-boys-sho...

when are these religious family values republicans going to learn? I would expect no less from a Republican Committee Chairman, but this is getting really, really old, IMHO.

Vote Mytmite in 2012!

Absolutely ! VOTE. There is no excuse for the low turn-out in this country. If one is near a radio or TV they are inundated with information If they have an address, information is mailed to them. Our history shows that all candidates and their staffs had 'encouraged ' voter participation using questionable means - or discouraged using the same. Thanks Carbon.

Kevin: an ad for home schooling. How sad. Who can you trust?

Cyclist's picture

[quote=lion]The Georgia voter ID law clearly discriminates on a racial basis and is a violation of the Federal Voting Rights Act.[/quote]

Then why did Eric "Machine Gun" Holder approve the plan back in 2010?

We'll all wait for your intelligent reply.

Caution - The Surgeon General has determined that constant blogging is an addiction that can cause a sedentary life style.

S. Lindsey's picture

It is Lion you are typing about....

"Whoever claims the right to redistribute the wealth produced by others is claiming the right to treat human beings as chattel."

-Ayn Rand

Cyclist's picture

BTW, I'm sure glad you're back.

Caution - The Surgeon General has determined that constant blogging is an addiction that can cause a sedentary life style.

S. Lindsey's picture

Been lurking around saw the same old tired arguments from "those" few that always say the same old thing over and over and got drawn in... You know the Constitution guarantees us the right to vote and every law that Whites write is racist.. blah...blah...blah.

"Whoever claims the right to redistribute the wealth produced by others is claiming the right to treat human beings as chattel."

-Ayn Rand

Cyclist's picture

then it's off to Texas.

Yup it's the same thing...keeping that conga line moving along.

Caution - The Surgeon General has determined that constant blogging is an addiction that can cause a sedentary life style.

S. Lindsey's picture

next "meeting"....

"Whoever claims the right to redistribute the wealth produced by others is claiming the right to treat human beings as chattel."

-Ayn Rand

Cyclist's picture

do.........

Caution - The Surgeon General has determined that constant blogging is an addiction that can cause a sedentary life style.

A better question is why is Georgia still under the scrutiny of VRA? One reason may be the offering of one bus for the entire state to provide free ID photos for the poor and those unable to get to a DMV or other location that would provide the service. I would hope that has been corrected. I agree, if the photo ID is required, just make sure all have access to obtaining one.
The leadership in Georgia has been questioned for generations - regardless of the label of the governing party. No argument about the access for middle class Americans to the ballot box - and they are the ones who have left both parties in droves because of the not so subtle politics of the 'greedy' who want to insure they don't lose their perceived power. Again, Fayetteville,Ga could be a role model of the new south. I'm proud to live in a community that is using the power of the vote to change the 'old boy' way of doing things. Happy New Year! One of my resolutions , keep listening and learning.
Mayor Steele deserves a lot of credit for the progress of Fayetteville, but he made the mistake of underestimating the 'newcomers'.

Anyone over the age 18 should have some form of photo identification. It does not matter if it is a Drivers License or just a state ID card. Photo ID is required for many things. I was asked to show my photo ID on 2 separate occasions yesterday. I'm guessing I will be asked to present it again later today when I'm out as well.
The state of Georgia issues for FREE a Georgia Photo ID card (for voting purposes only) so I don't see how this would adversely impact the poor and minorities from voting? Had the state charged for this card which is good for 8 years I might see your point but since they don't, there is no issue.

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