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Voting patterns of some blacks again debated

Voting patterns of some low-income citizens took center stageThursday during a public hearing on redistricting of Lincoln Countysupervisor beat lines.

Black citizens, objecting to a proposed county plan thatincludes residents of three housing complexes in District 1population totals, said those citizens are not likely to vote andare “prime targets for intimidation.” The implication was thatincluding them gives an inaccurate picture of black voting strengthin the district.

“You won’t get 20 (voters) out of all three of them. That’s afact,” said Percy Rauls, who sent supervisors a letter addressingsimilar concerns prior to Thursday’s hearing.

Rauls pointed out that the county’s majority white districtshave voting age majorities of around 80 percent. However, thecounty’s majority black district has a voting age majority of only62 percent.

“That could be moved up a little bit,” said Rauls, who alsomentioned the possibility of moving some black homeowners in thesouth Brookhaven area into District 1.

Redistricting consultant Bill Rigby said the county’s blackpopulation is spread out. He said drawing districts to raise theblack percentage higher would start to break up the core ofsupervisor districts and confuse voters.

Bob Allen, board of supervisors attorney, pointed out thatpopulation variances necessitated this year’s redistricting. Ifdistrict populations totals did not have a variance of more than 10percent, there would have been no need to redraw lines, hesaid.

“The purpose of redistricting is not to add more people to theblack district,” Allen said.

Allen and several others objected to Rauls’ comments regardinghousing complex residents’ voting patterns. The attorney said hewas offended at the assertion that there were “substandardcitizens” in Brookhaven.

District 1 Supervisor Cliff Givens, a white official who is inhis sixth term representing the majority black district, said thereis movement involving residents of mobile homes. He questionedwhether they should not be counted as well.

Rauls said housing complex residents can be intimidated into notvoting through comments suggesting the loss of welfare or foodstamps. He did not accuse any specific person or group ofintimidation tactics, but he said it does happen.

“Once they are told this, they believe it,” Rauls said.

Givens said he appreciated the support from black voters overthe years. He commented about Rauls’ perception of black voters’choices and their election participation.

“You can’t blame them for not voting for y’all, because you callthem trash and everything but people,” Givens said.

Givens and Allen apologized for their comments after some blackcitizens in the audience protested the remarks.

John Perkins, a white city resident who attended last night’shearing, said he was confounded and upset by some of the commentshe heard.

“I would think all of us would want us to have the bestqualified person, regardless of race,” Perkins said.

He said it was insulting to assume citizens would not votebecause they live in a housing complex. Regarding the suggestion ofvoter intimidation, Perkins said any evidence and facts should bepresented to the justice department.

“If you don’t have any facts, you shouldn’t bring it up,”Perkins said.

Excluding those who attended the meeting in an officialcapacity, 11 citizens were present for Thursday’s hearing. Ofthose, 5 were black and six were white.