Augusta Commission, school board, plaintiffs await decision on district lines

Parties on both sides of a federal lawsuit continue to await U.S. District Judge J. Randal Hall’s creation of a new map of district lines for the Augusta Commission and Richmond County Board of Education.


At a May 16 first hearing on the suit, filed by the Rev. K.B. Martin, the Rev. Melvin Ivey, former commission candidate Sammie Sias and others, Hall said he had a relatively simple task ahead with an estimated completion date of June 1.

“That is all that is on my plate,” Hall said.

As of late Monday, Hall’s order setting the new lines had not been filed, leaving parties anxious to know what he has decided.

“I’m very interested in seeing what Mr. Randy Hall has done,” Sias said. “A lot of people would like to know.”

Jerry Wilson, a Redan, Ga., attorney who is representing the plaintiffs along with American Civil Liberties Union attorneys M. Laughlin McDonald and Nancy Abudu, said Monday he too was awaiting the map to distribute to his clients for their review, as did Andrew MacKenzie, the general counsel for the city of Augusta.

MacKenzie said Monday that Hall is likely working hard to ensure that the map will withstand judicial scrutiny if plaintiffs appeal.

The suit names Mayor Deke Copenhaver, school board President Alex Howard, Board of Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey, Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston and Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams individually and also the entire commission and school board.

The map will set the district lines for five commission and five school board seats up for election in November, and although plaintiffs asked that Hall use Plan 3R, which was developed by a local committee and approved by the school board but not the commission, Hall said he would not use the plan.

Plan 3R created six majority-black districts and four majority-white districts, with a higher percentage of black residents in District 6 than previously included, based on population shifts shown in 2010 U.S. Census data.

While the plan he drafts with the help of an Atlanta technical adviser could resemble 3R, Hall said he would instead adjust existing 2002 district lines minimally to accommodate population shifts that occurred in the past decade.

Augusta Commissioners Jerry Brigham and Bill Lockett, who served on the local committee but differed on 3R, also were waiting to see the map Monday.

“No matter what the decision is, you’re going to have one segment of the population that’s not going to be satisfied,” Lockett said.