Mum’s the word from Justice

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 4, 2004

DEMOPOLIS – As late as 9:15 p.m. central daylight time, City Attorney Rick Manley had not received word from the U.S. Dept. of Justice on whether or not the city’s redistricting plan had been approved.

“We’ll have to wait until morning,” he said.

Justice had until Tuesday to render a decision on the city’s redistricting plan, a move called “preclearance” under Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act.

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If the department failed to respond to the plan, Manley said the federal administrative process would automatically approve the measure.

Manley, however, speculated that Justice could have until midnight to technically issue an objection to the plan.

On Monday, Anna Martinez, a DoJ staffer said the decision would come to the city Tuesday.

The city submitted the plan to Justice in April, and the department had 60 days from the date of submission to issue its opinion, unless it requested additional information from the submitting authority.

Several such requests had been made, and it was unclear as to the exact 60-day deadline.

A letter issued June 17 from Joseph D. Rich, chief of the department’s Voting Section, set the Aug. 3 deadline.

Only eight states are required to obtain preclearance for voting changes in all jurisdictions: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.