Citizens seek higher percentage black district

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, September 4, 2002

Two Lincoln County citizens contend that an 80 percent blackvoting age majority district is possible and are encouragingsupervisors to consider that during pending redistrictingdiscussions.

In an Aug. 21 letter to the board, Jesse Buie and Percy Raulsquestion board action related to the current 62.58 percent blackvoting age population in District 1. The overall black populationin the district is 65.84 percent.

Supervisors have scheduled a second public hearing onredistricting for Thursday at 6 p.m. A beat line plan thataddresses total population variance and minority representationconcerns is expected to be discussed during the hearing.

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County officials did not discuss redistricting activity duringTuesday’s supervisors meeting. Cliff Givens, who is white, is inhis sixth term as District 1 supervisor.

Buie and Rauls, who attended an earlier redistricting publichearing, contend in their letter that citizens in majority whitedistricts 2 through 5, which have voting strength populationsranging from 63.59 percent to 81.35 percent, can elect or defeat acandidate of their choice.

“When we look at the majority black District 1, 62.58 percentvoting strength, the public sees that as a black candidate having achance to be elected,” the letter said. “That is what thesupervisors want the public to believe.”

However, Buie and Rauls said that a black candidate cannot beelected with a 62.58 percentage because that total includes threehousing complexes and because of block voting, intimidation andapathy.

“The majority (of) residents of the complexes are on welfare andreceive food stamps, which makes them prime targets forintimidation,” the letter said.

Buie and Rauls said that mentioning the loss of food stamps orbeing cut off from welfare before an election will cause people notto participate. Therefore, they said, the majority loses part ofits strength.

The letter also mentioned “block voting” by white citizens,which make up 35.97 percent, in District 1. The letter said thefour predominantly white precincts of District 1 vote as a blockwhen a black candidate is involved.

In their letter, Buie and Rauls request a majority black votingstrength district with a percentage of 81 to 84 percent.

“We know that it can be done,” the letter said.

The letter goes on to discuss the last redistricting dispute anda plan that upped District 1 black voting strength to 65.8 percent.The letter said that plan was accepted over the supervisors’ plan,but the Justice Department was negligent in notifying the countyand the board plan took effect.

Buie and Rauls encouraged the board to “do the right thing” andcome up with a plan that is “fair” to all districts. The letterintimates the possibility of a second plan being submitted from thecounty if the one adopted by the board is not perceived to be fairto all districts.

“We are of the opinion that every better thinking person,including supervisors, will agree that being 30 percent of thepopulation they should have black representation in countygovernment,” the letter said.

County officials hope to adopt a redistricting plan and have itpre-cleared by the U.S. Department of Justice by the end of theyear. The new redistricting plan then would be used in next year’selections.

In action during Tuesday’s board meeting, supervisors awarded a$941,059 bid to Oddee Smith and Sons to resurface and widen CountyFarm Road between East Monticello and Highway 84. Givens was gladto see the long-sought project moving forward.

“It’s going to be a good cut-through road,” Givens said.

Also Tuesday, supervisors asked that board attorney Bob Allencounty city and county school officials about school busturnarounds.

County laws permit maintenance, not construction, of turnaroundsup to 150 feet from the roadway. Turnaround requests are to berenewed yearly and granted at supervisors’ discretion.

“It’s not a mandatory thing, it’s a voluntary thing,” Allensaid.