Justice Department rejects bill to move Augusta elections

Justice Department says move would hurt minorities

Friday, Jan. 4, 2013 9:32 PM
Last updated Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013 1:51 AM
  • Follow Elections

An Augusta legislator’s effort to move Augusta Commission elections from No­vember to Ju­ly was rejected by the U.S. Jus­tice Department as a veiled effort to dilute minority voting strength in the city, but don’t expect the highly partisan issue to die an easy death.

Rep. Barbara Sims' bill focused on mayoral and commission elections.  JIM BLAYLOCK/FILE
JIM BLAYLOCK/FILE
Rep. Barbara Sims' bill focused on mayoral and commission elections.

In a Dec. 21 response to Geor­gia’s request to pre-clear the legislation, Assistant U.S. At­tor­ney General Thomas Pe­rez blasted the proposed change, saying Georgia failed to show a lack of discriminatory purpose and effect, as required by the Voting Rights Act.

He said the measure posed as one affecting all seven of Georgia’s consolidated city-county governments and named no individual jurisdiction. In actuality, he said, it rescheduled only Augusta elections for mayor and 10 commissioners from November to July, he said.

Looking at 2010 and 2012 Augusta elections, Perez said, July turnout was lower than November turnout among both blacks and whites, but the drop was worse for blacks. Therefore, moving the elections to July would have a “retrogressive effect” on minority voters’ ability to elect candidates of their choosing, he said.

Perez said the state failed to demonstrate that the change did not set out to discriminate, because the mayor and commission weren’t consulted before the measure’s passage and later adopted a resolution opposing it. Any purpose of cost savings or convenience had already been accomplished through a statewide shift of nonpartisan judicial and school board elections to July, Perez stated.

In proposing the change in February, state Rep. Barbara Sims, R-Augusta, called it a housekeeping measure to fit consolidated governments into the same legislation that moved the rest of nonpartisan local elections to July.

Sims’ bill, which passed in the House and was incorporated into Senate legislation sent to the Justice De­partment, triggered a firestorm among Augusta Dem­­o­cratic legislators.

Sen. Har­die Davis introduced a bill setting local elections in No­vem­­ber, and Rep. Quincy Mur­phy moved for the House to reconsider. Both failed.

Ultimately, Augusta’s law department and Georgia Deputy Attorney General Den­nis Dunn issued opinions asserting that Au­gusta, unlike the rest of Georgia’s consolidated governments, operates as a “municipality” for election purposes, according to its charter, and is exempt from the date change.

Sims defended her bill Friday and cited the heavy July Democratic primary turnout that helped Augusta-Richmond County elect its first black sheriff and probate judge and first black female solicitor.

“If you want to vote, you can vote. That was proven this summer,” she said. “It was not to keep Augusta-Richmond County from voting, but to follow the same path as other consolidated governments.”

Georgia Republican legislators don’t appear done with the issue. Sims said there is a “very good possibility” the issue will resurface when the Gen­eral Assembly convenes.

Sen. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, has pre-filed a bill that assigns consolidated governments to the category of “county elections, and not municipal elections.”

Davis asked why a legislator would push an issue already dismissed three times.

“I think you’ve got a case with the Justice Department ruling that, ‘Hey, you need to think twice before you do that,’ ” he said.

Augusta Democratic Rep. Earnest Smith said thast the proposed change never had the cost-saving effect its authors claimed and that it ultimately would cost the city more to hold commission and mayoral races and their likely runoffs in the summer.

“I think that everything is as it should be,” he said.

Rep. Wayne Howard, D-Augusta, commended the Jus­tice Department’s decision but questioned why state government was getting involved in local elections.

“The problem we’ve run into in Atlanta is that we’re turning local legislation into general legislation,” he said. “That needs to be stopping, but sometimes the only place it can be stopped is the Justice Department.”

Comments (17) Add comment
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OpenCurtain
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OpenCurtain 01/04/13 - 10:35 pm
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"a veiled effort to dilute minority voting strength in the city"

Shame of them for trying dilute the White Minority votes even more.
Bunch of throw-Racists.

itsanotherday1
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itsanotherday1 01/05/13 - 12:21 am
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I'm not sure of the

I'm not sure of the advantages of moving it; but Barbara Sims is correct in her assertion that it would not hurt the black vote. That constituency does very well at getting out to vote in elections that mean something to them.

Techfan
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Techfan 01/05/13 - 06:14 am
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"Sims defended her bill

"Sims defended her bill Friday and cited the heavy July Democratic primary turnout that helped Augusta-Richmond County elect its first black sheriff and probate judge and first black female solicitor"

Election turnout:
July 31th, 2012 - 28.72%
August 21st, 2012 (runoff) - 25.76%
November 6th, 2012 - 72.92%

There you go. Can Sims actually lie with a straight face and say the change is not to dilute the turnout? They want to change as many races as they can away from November so they can hand pick their buddies as the likely winners.

Truth Matters
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Truth Matters 01/05/13 - 08:12 am
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Thumbs up

Sorry, tech fan that first thumbs down was meant to be "up"

Republicans have proven at the state level nationwide that they don't give a flip about anyone but their agenda. A sign for me was when Sen. Davis opposed the move. He is considered by most to be one of the least reactive members of the delegation. When he saw red flags, that sealed my opposition. For Rebublicans to be so $ conscious they have no problem bringing legislation again and again until the get what they want. And who pays? You and I.

griff6035
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griff6035 01/05/13 - 08:19 am
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Elections

Because blacks are more lazy than whites in elections held in July a US Federal Judge deems that a "retrogressive effect' on minority voters ability to elect candidates of there choice. All they have to do is vote, they certainly have the numbers.

Techfan
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Techfan 01/05/13 - 09:01 am
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More lazy?

"blacks are more lazy than whites" They just be shufflin' along eatin' watermelon and fried chicken, right? What an assinine comment, which I would say is also racist. More lazy? How about poorer with less access to transportation or jobs that are less likely to allow them to take off to go vote? I'm sure those reasons never crossed your mind. If anyone ever claims that racism is dead in this area, all they need to do is look at the previous comment. Unbelievable.

soapy_725
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soapy_725 01/05/13 - 09:36 am
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One voting day, once a year, a paid National Holiday
Unpublished

November still works. No special elections. What in our do nothing government cannot wait until November. The savings would be astronomical. So the bureaucrats who are "job sensitive" will never let this happen. No logical problem solving in the government. Divide and conquer. Skin color, religion, economic statue, sexual preference, education status

More elections, more run offs, more bureaucrats with more staff assistants with their staffing assistants. No room for budget reduction in elections.

dichotomy
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dichotomy 01/05/13 - 10:06 am
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I do think that it would have

I do think that it would have diluted the vote....both black and white. HOWEVER, I do think that it would have been good to separate the local elections from the national elections so that people would PAY ATTENTION to local issues and candidates.

palmetto1008
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palmetto1008 01/05/13 - 10:50 am
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unreal....@7:19. Like
Unpublished

unreal...@7:19. Like step back in time...way back.

Sweet son
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Sweet son 01/05/13 - 01:14 pm
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Dern Tech Fan and dichotomy....................

if you thought griff was so bad and racist why didn't you flag him! But I think that smarter minds prevailed and you guys decided to let this forum work as it should. We all are allowed to participate in "spirited debate."

I wonder if the Judge is a minority and if that is the case was he able to render an unbiased opinion. When you say US Justice Department I immediately think of Erick Holder and I immediately close my mind on all of them! Holder is as short on the truth as some others in Washington.

willie7
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willie7 01/05/13 - 12:54 pm
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Congratulations to the NAACP
Unpublished

Congratulations to the NAACP for filing a petition to the Justice Department. One up for Dr. Smith, president of the local branch.

Fiat_Lux
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Fiat_Lux 01/05/13 - 01:12 pm
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This ruling is BEYOND stupid.

Period. Logistics does NOT equal racism or an attempt at discrimination.

What a bunch of duds inhabit the judiciary, but by golly, they certainly do accurately reflect and resemble the idiots who put them in their positions.

Sweet son
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Sweet son 01/05/13 - 01:16 pm
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@Fiat_Lux!

AMEN!! Especially the Federal judiciary!

OpenCurtain
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OpenCurtain 01/05/13 - 02:51 pm
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OK this time without the sarcasm, just the blunt facts

AUGUSTA's RACIAL MAKEUP
WHITE 39.10%
BLACK OR AFRICAN AMERICAN 54.73%

Again who is the minority and what does the N2ABP or the Judges ruling have to do with protecting the WHITE MINORITY of Augusta?

Or

Atlanta RACIAL MAKEUP
WHITE 38.36%
BLACK OR AFRICAN AMERICAN 54.02%

Or
Waynesboro RACIAL MAKEUP
WHITE 26.43%
BLACK OR AFRICAN AMERICAN 70.74%

Or
Savannah RACIAL MAKEUP
WHITE 38.29%
BLACK OR AFRICAN AMERICAN 55.40%

Or
Macon RACIAL MAKEUP
WHITE 28.56%
BLACK OR AFRICAN AMERICAN 67.94%

and many more cities?

rebellious
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rebellious 01/05/13 - 04:50 pm
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Between the lines

The real issue was not the movement of the voting dates. This move, combined with the addition of Republicans Bill Jackson and Jesse Stone to the local legislative delegation, has to be one of the biggest political faux pas of the century. It effectively stirred up a hornets nest which saw the black powerbrokers in Augusta plant a black candidate (qualified or not) in every race on the ballot in November. It effectively stirred up a grassroots movement to push blacks to the polls.

Sometimes a delicate balance can be upset by trying to take power. Better to peacefully coexist than attempt and lose a coup.

Techfan
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Techfan 01/06/13 - 06:23 am
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"Dern Tech Fan and dichotomy

"Dern Tech Fan and dichotomy if you thought griff was so bad and racist why didn't you flag him!"

I don't believe in using the "flag for review" unless the comment contains outright vulgarity or might release personal information about a poster. I find it is often the coward's way out of a discussion. It's also used by what I light to call "hit and run" commenters. They'll throw in an insult at someone, then flag that person's response. I also don't believe in using the "thumbs up/thumbs down" and points system. There again I find it is often the cowards way out of going after a commenter.
I probably can count on one hand the number of times I've reported any comment (other than years ago when I first started posting and there was one poster who was a perect example of what I described above. He/she would personally attack posters then flag any retaliation. The same for the "thumbs" bull. Some use it, not as a way to rate the post, but to try to somehow ding people who have opinions that don't align with theirs. The ones I have given thumbs up for were some that I found exeptionally clever or funny. None come to mind now. I do remember one was by Riverman, but I can't recall what the post was. As a test I made a comment about the weather and a number of thumbs down showed up. Since the makeup of commenters on this site is about 90%/10% conservative/liberal, when the "flagging" is used this way, only the liberal posters will build up an excessive amount of "flags". I think it's the cowards way out. If you don't agree with a post, join in the debate.

Sweet son
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Sweet son 01/06/13 - 02:55 pm
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@ Techfan

Good comment! I have never flagged anyone and seldom use the thumbs option in the comments section.

On the other hand I have been flagged a few times and I really questioned Sean about why. He always responds with a logical response and I usually "see the light." LOL!

Have a great day!

Sweet son

OpenCurtain
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OpenCurtain 01/06/13 - 09:18 pm
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I'vebeen flagged and so have several others stating facts..

I guess blunt facts hurt someones feelings again.

The question remains the same.

Who can be blamed, when the former minority becomes the MAJORITY and has the power to correct their own problems?

Patty-P
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Patty-P 01/07/13 - 12:20 am
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Interesting debate going on

Interesting debate going on here. Interesting comments as well.

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