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New map means confusion for some candidates, voters

NAACP hails judge’s decision as ‘historic win-win’; new map creates district to ensure a minority candidate will be elected in Fayette

The switch to district voting for Fayette County Commission and Board of Education elections will prevent about 60 percent of Fayette voters from casting ballots in four local races during the May primary and the November general election.

Yet it is almost guaranteed to produce exactly what the NAACP asked for in its federal lawsuit: a black candidate being elected to both local governing bodies for the first time ever, representing the newly created majority-minority 5th District.

The interim result will be confusion for many voters, particularly those who live on the boundaries of district lines for the new map approved by the court Feb. 18. The districts cut across several voting precincts.

When qualifying starts next week, the local Democrat and Republican parties will have a fairly detailed large map they can use, and if there are questions about someone who appears to be on the fringe of a district, they can call the elections office, which can look up each parcel to determine which district they are in, according to county Elections Director Tom Sawyer.

The office will mail out precinct cards as soon as they can, though it might stretch into mid-April, Sawyer said.

“We are working really hard,” Sawyer said. “Trust me, the last thing I want to do is create a problem.”

In addition to the District 5 seats that will be up for grabs for the posts currently held by county Commissioner Allen McCarty and board of education member Leonard Presberg, also up for grabs will be the commission District 3 seat held by Steve Brown and the Post 4 BoE seat held by Bob Todd.

The ruling from U.S. District Judge Thomas C. Batten was hailed by the Fayette County NAACP as a “historic win-win” because Batten allowed the creation of a majority-minority district to remedy the NAACP’s complaint that at-large voting prevented a minority candidate from winning an election on a countywide basis.

District voting ties each post on both governing bodies to one specific geographic area of the county, and Judge Batten enacted his version of the district voting map last week, declaring it would be used for the 2014 and subsequent elections until the matter could be handled by the Georgia Legislature as required by state law.

What remains to be seen is whether the county commission will appeal the court’s decision, though it is not expected to prevent district voting from being executed this year. The commission is slated to discuss that matter in an executive session meeting in the near future.

The Post 4 and Post 5 seats for the board of education and the Post 3 and Post 5 county commission are up for election this year. Residents living in those districts as designed by the court will be able to vote in the May and November elections this year, but only for the district they reside in.

Voters living in other districts will not be able to vote for any commission or board of education candidates, yet they will be able to vote for the statewide offices up for grabs including the governor and lieutenant governor, state school superintendent, attorney general and more, along with various state legislative seats that must be decided as well.

Fayette County NAACP President John Jones called the court’s decision “a historic win-win for all Fayette County citizens.”

Jones noted that candidates in all five districts will benefit because they will only have to campaign within their district instead of on a countywide basis.

“So people of all races can celebrate this victory because every candidate will have a more equal opportunity to get elected to the county commission or school board,” Jones wrote in a press release.

The new map, in order to create the majority-minority 5th District, splits nine of the county’s 36 voting precincts. It stretches from an area of East Fayetteville into part of north Fayetteville, extending north into a significant chunk of unincorporated Fayette County before heading east and taking part of north Tyrone as well.

In the process, the new 1st District keeps the remaining edge of unincorporated Fayette County along the Fayette-Fulton County border while including the remainder of Tyrone and a sizable chunk of northeast Peachtree City along with part of the unincorporated county straddling Ga. Highway 54.

Batten in his Feb. 18 order noted that the shape of District 5 “is somewhat irregular” but argues such is not surprising “given the irregularity of the U.S. Census blocks that comprise it and the goal of creating a majority-minority district.”

“Consequently, neither the circumstantial nor the direct evidence in this case suggests that strict-scrutiny review is appropriate or that district 5 is an impermissible racial gerrymander,” Batten wrote.

Jones in the press release takes credit for the NAACP’s “all out effort to bring district voting to Fayette County.”

The NAACP contends that district voting will help Fayette overcome “proven patterns of racial bloc voting made worse by an at-large voting system.”

“With district voting, minorities residing in a geographically compact majority/minority district will now have the opportunity to elect the candidate of their choice,” the press release stated.



fayette77's picture

Win-Win usually means both sides win. I read where the NAACP got their win, who got the other?
Maybe we need district voting in other areas like the President. Somehow my vote for any non-Obama candidate didn't allow me to get the candidate of my choice.

What about this is better for me?

The argument that diffuse democracy trumps district representation runs counter to Madison and Hamilton’s fear of minority persecution by the majority. The U.S. Constitution goes to great lengths to prevent exactly what the court ruled against by specifically creating district (state) representation that could not be overwhelmed by a majority of all voters. Thus Georgia and Delaware are represented equally in the Senate despite huge population differences. If voting for all representatives was adopted nationwide, Republicans would hold few offices since the overall majority of American voters (who are clearly not Republican) would select all officials instead of allowing each state to elect their own district representatives.

Objections to gerrymandering for a specific electoral outcome are very consistent with the Constitution, but the elimination of district voting is exactly what Madison feared and what national Republicans should eschew as well.

On the National Level.

Not sure this will make Fayette County better. Are you? We have been different than other metro counties, I liked that.

Earl and Spy - I doubt that the court's gerrymandering of Fayette County will improve anything except to satisfy a few short-sighted politicians who demand an outcome of color.

Until both mainstream political parties abandon gerrymandered districts in favor of nonpolitical, geographical redistricting, neither has standing to complain about other groups who emulate their tactics. All Americans should demand geographical redistricting on every level so that representatives are elected by natural, local neighbors instead of a rigged electorate. This will be just as fair for the NAACP as it is for the tea party.

I totally understand that democracy has to mean more than 2 wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner. But to avoid the few ruling the many I think that the few should have to show how they were harmed or would be harmed by a current law in order to have it changed. And that was not shown. All that was shown was that a black had not been elected for some time. No one cared that few blacks ran and most of those that did ran as democrats in a heavily republican county. Most of these people moved here because they were looking for a good school system for their kids. Then they want to change the system that developed that school system. Isn't that like buying a car because you liked the color then painting it? Makes no sense to me. And 10 years from now if Fayette Schools are only a shell of what they once were will the NAACP accept any of the blame?

The NAACP acted upon existing law in our country. The 'leaders' in FC were asleep at the wheel if they didn't see this coming. In all reality,the current chair of the Board of Education will probably be re-elected to the BOE. Why? Because he represents ALL citizens of FC well - especially in the area where he lives. Gerrymandering has been discussed ad-infinitum on this site. How will the 20% of minorities who live in FC today bring FC schools down? What maintains FC's status is the education and income level of its citizens - not necessarily their color. Remember folks, the citizens of Clayton County do not vote in Fayette County elections. However - 20% of the citizens here, regardless of their political party - will react to arrogant ignorance when it comes to race relations - no matter the color of the arrogant ignorant citizen. The ignorance is arrogantly expressed in the fear of having ONE black person on a governing board in this county.

[quote]Then they want to change the system that developed that school system.[/quote]

The last vestiges of Jim Crow did not maintain the school system in Fayette County! Great administrators, teachers, and parents keep/kept this system top rate!! Selling homes below market value; keeping your property and renting to Section 8; fear of diversity and plain old discrimination will be the downfall of the FC school system. THEY don't want to change the school system - and THEY work cooperatively with the staff to maintain a good public school system.

[QUOTE]I totally understand that democracy . . .[/QUOTE]

Agreed - you understand - from your perspective. Thanks for sharing. All perspectives lend a little more light to the discussion.

Robert W. Morgan's picture

“So people of all races can celebrate this victory because every candidate will have a more equal opportunity to get elected to the county commission or school board,” Jones wrote in a press release.

Yes sir, get elected and that's the victory. Mission accomplished. Sit on your black or white or oriental or hispanic or muslim butt and try to grab some county dollars for your district. no big deal - the other 4 will do the same. Although if you are a persecuted person of color or religion, you may not be scrappy enough to wrest the bacon away from the older and more experienced junk yard dogs. Oh well. At least the lawyers got paid.

Live free or die!

Your organization's hard work has really paid off. FINALLY, we have have a legal race segregated district. It really was a travesty that one race could be represented by another race. How can the special needs of black people be met without a person of their own color representing them?

Kudos to the NAACP. We now have legal recognition that people have different needs and thoughts based of race. What a fabulous step backwards.

brewster's picture

Kinda like banishing the male gynecologist - or maybe only seeing a doctor who has actually had their own arm broken.

I sure hope Haddix doesn't bother wasting more of his money in a futile attempt to gain an income again on the taxpayers dime. He still needs to pay off his failed 2013 PTC mayoral run for not only himself but Mrs. Haddix too. When no one contributes to your campaign and you get 5% of the vote (as an incumbent in the failed mayor run) you should rethink your purpose in life.
No one is going to forget the money (>$10,000) Haddix had the taxpayers shell out because of his lawsuit - especially when it could have been concluded with a simple, I'm sorry, I made a mistake, can we put this behind us. But Nooooo. Haddix took it to the mat and he got himself pinned .... no one will forget and everybody will be reminded if he runs for any office.

Robert W. Morgan's picture

Why? Because this will be different than anything we have seen before. The stupid district voting decision forces 4/5 of the county to sit on the sidelines for this post's election. The 1/5 that can participate are all in western and central PTC - about 20,000 people in 6,000 houses. Half of the 20,000 are not registered (includes children) and 2/3 of the remainder don't vote, so now we are down to 3300 voters in about 100 subdivisions (Planterra being the largest) in a very small geographical area - accessible by golf cart. Minimum of 3 candidates vying for those votes and it easy to see how every vote counts and a couple of hundred votes one way or the other makes a huge difference.

Expect very intense door to door campaigning by all the candidates - 3 or 4 very personable and likeable people (yes even Brown and Haddix can be likeable for a 30 second door knock). Also expect the next variation of the walking sign - the golf cart sign parade through the subdivisions on weekends - candidate riding standing up with a bullhorn throwing candy to the kids. Ahhhh, Peachtree City.

When you factor in the fact that at least half of the 3300 are clueless when it comes to the Haddix money grab or his other nonsense, it forces the other candidates to go negative and start "informing" the voters of how bad Haddix is - and of course that will extend to Haddix trashing Brown and everybody in the race being negative.

Brown will promise his fellow Planterrians that he will fix the 54 west traffic problems and Haddix will dwell on the Fischer Road access to I-85 and both will blow smoke at the MacDuff strandees about their road extension to 74. Of course a county commissioner can do none of that, but expect to hear it. Come to think of it, the light at MacDuff and 54 is a great place to stand with a sign and have very long conversations with the captives in their cars.

Thankfully I'll miss out on that. I only have Mr. Barlow knocking on my door next year or maybe in 2 years. Guess I will go clean my shotgun.

Live free or die!

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