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Redistricting map concerns center on Fort Gordon, Sand Ridge

Wednesday, June 13, 2012 9:18 PM
Last updated Saturday, June 16, 2012 9:24 PM
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Parties on both sides of a federal lawsuit filed to set Augusta Commission and Richmond County Board of Education district lines filed only a handful of remarks by a Wednesday deadline about the preliminary map released last week by a judge.

Among the comments, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, Board of Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey asked that the court defer to the Board of Elections’ request that candidate qualifying for five commission and five school board posts take place starting at 9 a.m. Aug. 6 and ending at noon Aug. 8.

The commission, which had been divided over the district plan developed by a local committee, had just two comments about District Judge J. Randal Hall’s plan.

Formed after state legislators failed to agree on a locally drawn district map, the plan established six majority-black and four majority-white districts based on 2010 Census figures.

The commission raised concerns about the concentration of more than two-thirds of 6,733 Fort Gordon personnel in District 4, because only about 7 percent, or 571, of Fort Gordon residents are locally registered voters, according to the commission’s Wednesday court filing.

The division of personnel equally among several commission districts had been a concern of District 4 Commissioner Alvin Mason, a retired Army first sergeant who raised the issue while heading the local redistricting committee.

Placing two-thirds of residents in District 4 would “effectively deprive District 4 of an equitable share of citizens who will in fact vote or even register to vote,” and the commission requested that Hall instead divide the post’s residents equally among districts 3, 4 and 8.

In its limited comments about the map, the school board also asked that Hall reconsider the “disproportionate” concentration of residents in District 4.

The other concern raised by the commission was the division of Sand Ridge subdivision, a landlocked Hephzibah neighborhood off Tobacco Road near Fort Gordon, between Districts 4 and 8 in Hall’s plan.

Former District 4 commission candidate and retired Army sergeant Sammie Sias campaigned actively during the redistricting effort to reunite Sand Ridge, which was split after the 2000 census.

The commission’s comment to Hall specified seven Precinct 807 census blocks currently in District 8 that could be moved into District 4 to reunite Sand Ridge in District 4.

The school board raised a similar concern about Sand Ridge and Wood Lake subdivisions’ being divided in Hall’s plan, saying the plan splits voting precincts 101, 202, 401, 405, 602, 605, 805 and 806 between two commission districts.

Districts 4 and 8 are not in play in this year’s commission elections – both seats were filled in 2010 – but the districts’ school board posts held by Barbara Pulliam and Jimmy Atkins are up for election this November.

Plaintiffs, who include members of a black pastors group and several residents of Sand Ridge and District 4, remarked in their court filing that Hall’s map complies with the Voting Rights Act.

They also requested that Hall reunite Sand Ridge, but only by shifting a single census block from District 8 to District 4.

Hall filed no order regarding the map or comments Wednesday.


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