Originally created 10/15/02

Council debates NAACP proposal



The NAACP's proposal to add a fifth seat to the Aiken City Council had a mix reception from council members Monday night.

Officials discussed the issue at a pre-city council study session. No vote was taken, and debate will continue at the council's next meeting.

The Aiken branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People wants a fifth district drawn to ensure that at least two members of the council are minorities.

Aiken currently elects four council members from districts and two members and the mayor at-large. Last month, city attorneys created new lines that take into account a decade's worth of growth as recorded in the 2000 census.

NAACP members are opposed to the plan because it would leave the council's two minority districts, 1 and 2, with a black voting-age population of 51.6 percent.

Aiken NAACP's president, the Rev. David Walker, gave city council a plan that calls for a fifth district that would include the city's horse district and part of the southside, which saw most of the city's growth in the 1990s.

The group's plan would leave District 1 with a black voting-age population of approximately 57 percent and District 2 with about 59 percent.

Any plan that city council endorses must also be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice. Jim Holley, a former attorney for the city who helped redistrict Aiken in 1993, said the Justice Department prefers minority districts with a black voting-age population of about 55 percent.

He said the agency would likely sign off on the city's current plan despite it having less than 55 percent because minorities had left the districts, not because the city had made changes.

Reach Josh Gelinas at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.