Plaintiffs still reviewing voting map

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The jury remains out on the new district plan drafted by U.S. District Judge J. Randal Hall and released last week to plaintiffs and defendants in the federal case over Augusta-Richmond County voting districts.

“We don’t have a consensus from our plaintiffs yet about it, but we are reviewing it and analyzing it,” said Redan, Ga., attorney Jerry Wilson, “so we can get a real good idea of what it does.”

Laughlin McDonald, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project, who is serving as co-counsel for plaintiffs in the suit, said Hall’s plan did appear to comply with the Voting Rights Act, redistributed population sufficiently to satisfy the one-person, one-vote requirement and paired no incumbents.

But the question remains, and attorneys had not received an answer yet, whether Hall could have drawn the map better, McDonald said Friday.

The plan creates five solidly black commission and school board districts and one “toss-up” district, where blacks are a majority, but not a large one, he said.

McDonald and Wilson said they’d have comments on the map by the deadline Hall set, 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Looking at percentages provided in the judge’s court order, Districts 1, 2, 4 and 5 have populations that are 69 percent or higher black or mixed-race. District 6’s black-mixed-race population is 54.26 percent, while its voting age population of black-mixed-race is just 50.22 percent.

Overall, according to the 2010 census, the city is 55.84 percent black or mixed-race and 51.97 percent black-mixed-race of voting age. Four percent of the population is Hispanic.

Hall’s plan also splits eight voting precincts – 101, 202, 401, 405, 602, 605, 805 and 806 – between two districts.

The splits include the Pepperidge subdivision, long situated in District 4 but divided in Hall’s plan between Districts 4 and 6.

Commissioner Corey Johnson said he’d warned residents of the Oglethorpe community that they are no longer in his District 2 under Hall’s plan. He also lost Apple Valley to District 1 but gained the Valley Park subdivision off Wrightsboro Road from District 5.

“Picking up Valley Park is huge because Valley Park is a pretty well-rounded community,” Johnson said.

Although the map is not finalized, knowing better where to campaign was somewhat of a relief to Augusta attorney Ed Enoch, who is seeking the District 3 commission seat held by Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles, who is term limited. Mary Fair Davis also is seeking the post.

Hall had to trim some 4,000 from District 3, which was overpopulated in the 2010 census, and moved to District 5 were parts of the Kingston subdivision and Augusta Mall.

“We’ve been running since January, and we didn’t know who we were going to represent,” Enoch said.

One thing parties on both sides appear to agree on is a request made by plaintiff Sammie Sias to reunite his Sand Ridge subdivision, located off Tobacco Road near Fort Gordon, into a single district.

Sand Ridge has been split between districts 4 and 8 since the last redistricting cycle, and Sias raised the issue repeatedly during local officials’ attempt at drawing a district map last year.

“The Sand Ridge community association will be greatly appreciative of any and all efforts by those who work to assist us in being reunited,” Sias said.

Both sides in the lawsuit even appear in agreement that Sand Ridge ought to be reunited.

“I would think that would probably be a request by the majority of the commission,” said District 7 Commissioner Jerry Brigham, who is term-limited but was among several commissioners who took issue with the locally developed plan – known as 3R – when it was presented to the Legislature for approval earlier this year. The plan, developed by a committee led by Commissioner Alvin Mason, created six districts that were 60 percent or more black-mixed-race.

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double_standard 06/09/12 - 11:46 pm
This process is so gerry

This process is so gerry mandered and it only got worse. Apple Valley is no where close to east boundary or harrisburg. Split pepperidge in half and add valley park to district 2 it makes no sense.

JohnBrownAug 06/10/12 - 06:48 am
I find it interesting that

I find it interesting that Augusta now has almost the exact same racial make-up as the city of Atlanta, yet they have a black controlled government in almost every aspect.

madgerman 06/10/12 - 07:00 am
Could someone please give me

Could someone please give me the legal definition of "black or mixed race". Are they saying Indians, mexicans and Koreans are considered Black? And why is it called Black mixed race, rather than just mixed race and if it is truly mixed race why not Korean mixed race? When we use race to determine things like this it makes me wonder if maybe the Caucasian community is just thrown to the wayside or that they have no importance in the election process. Given the shape of many communities which are considered "Black" I wonder if we shouldn't rethink our current process of setting voting districts. Obviously what we have been doing for the last 20 - 30 years isn't working and getting worse every day.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 06/10/12 - 08:46 am
No Difference

Augusta's government is just as dysfunctional as Atlanta's, JBA. Corruption knows no color.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 06/10/12 - 08:51 am
Different Slant

Wow, this story has a whole different flavor compared to the one in this week's Metro Courier. Susan McCord talked to plaintiffs' attorneys, but Barbara Gordon talked to the plaintiffs themselves. There are some quotes from plaintiffs' loudest spokesman Rev. K. B. Martin that show the plaintiffs to be ecstatic, even giddy over Hall's map. Martin is boldly predicting six black commissioners in November.

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