Election still hanging

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 23, 2004

GREENSBORO – The county’s Democratic Executive Committee met long into the night Wednesday hearing testimony on whether or not Elijah Knox, commissioner-elect of District 2 could take the office.

The hearing, four months after Commissioner Lois Fields filed an official contest to the Democratic primary in which she lost to Knox, continued after press time, but the purpose was to ultimately determine the winner of the race.

“If they don’t decide by October 1, Knox will be sworn in as the commissioner,” said Leland Avery, the county’s probate judge.

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Central to Fields’ argument was the validity of district lines depicted on redistricting maps the commission had adopted in 1994.

April England-Albright, Fields’ attorney, contends that the current map incorrectly places F Street – the Akron street where Knox lives – in District 2, and that Knox actually lives in District 1.

To substantiate that claim, the Fields camp called on Moundville Times publisher Larry Taylor to provide copies of voters lists published in his paper in March 31, 1994 and May 12, 1994 that show Knox a voter of District 1.

Knox attorney Nicholas Cobbs objected to the voter list testimony saying the lists had nothing to do with the case.

Also testifying on for Fields was an expert witness, engineer and surveyor Glen McCord, who stated he field-checked the current maps and found them to be inaccurate according to the published legal description of the district boundaries.

Knox himself took the stand late about 9:20 p.m. and told the eight Democratic committee members assembled in the jury box that he had always voted in District 1, but had checked with the board of registrar’s office prior to this election and he had been changed to District 2A, placing him in Fields’ district. That change had been made after the last election, he said.

Faye Cochran, chairman of the county’s board of registrars, presented two maps to the committee – one of the boundaries in Akron, the other the 1994 district map that was precleared by the U.S. Dept. of Justice.

When asked by the committee to hand over the maps, Cochran refused.

“There’s no way I’m letting these documents out of my site,” she said.

Judge Marvin Wiggins issued an order mandating she turn the maps over to the committee, but she said she would only give them to the court reporter because “we trust her.”

Others testifying before the committee were Avery, District 4 Commissioner Yolanda Watkins and County Appraiser Mike Compton.