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Justice: Election can go forward

DEMOPOLIS – Elections officials are breathing a little easier after the city’s redistricting plan received preclearance from the Justice Department, settling questions about whether or not municipal elections could take place Aug. 24.

City Attorney Rick Manley received verbal notification of the preclearance Wednesday from the department’s Voting Section, which reviews election changes.

Although he had not received a written notice from Justice, Manley said the Justice-imposed Aug. 3 deadline, which passed without any type of notification, cleared the plan administratively.

“It’s a big relief,” said City Clerk Vickie Taylor, who is the city’s election manager. “We can now go forward with everything which includes the printing of the voters list and letting the candidates and voters know they can vote according to the plan that’s on file in this office.”

The municipal elections, she said, would without question take place on Aug. 24.

The city council submitted new districts to Justice in April, designated as Plan G, and Justice officials have been investigating whether or not the plan is fair for all residents, city council member Thomas Moore said. Moore has been in contact with Justice investigators throughout the process.

“It’s a plan I could live with,” he said. “Like I told the Justice Department, I thought it could be better but it’s a plan I could live with in the meantime. The misgivings I had were similar to the questions [Justice] posed – the make up of District 3, and particularly the voting age population.”

District 3 is what is known as a “swing district” where a variance between voting age population and total population often doesn’t agree.

There, the total population is 47.79 percent white and 51.44 percent black. Of voting-age residents, however, the district is 55.81 percent white and 44.19 black.

“The voting-age population is skewed a lot from the overall population … in the overall design, that could have been better,” Moore said.

“One of the things we had to factor in was keeping Districts 1 and 2 black and that kind of impacted that decision in District 3 as well,” he said.

“To a degree; I told justice if I was selecting a woman to marry, it wouldn’t be the one I’d take home to momma – but I’d date her,” he said.