Commissioner Lathonia Wright asked the commission to rescind the plan it adopted for redistricting the county at the Sept. 12 meeting. Wright, along with Commission Chair Doug Sheppard, who was not present at the meeting, did not vote for the proposed plan.
“I’m really trying to keep us out of court,” Wright said. “We can hold elections under existing county lines now, and we can go ahead and work on redrawing a map that satisfies the Justice Department.”
Wright said it was unlikely the proposed plan would be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice as it possibly violates the Voting Rights Act by decreasing the percentage of minority population in District 5.
The Voting Rights Act establishes that counties must have one district with a minority population as a majority. District 5 – Wright’s district in southern Randolph County including parts of Roanoke – currently has a 57 percent minority population, three percent below the Department of Justice’s recommended percentage.
New district lines under the plan adopted by the commission would reduce minority population in the district to 56 percent.
Wright’s proposal to rescind the measure would keep district lines the same through the 2012 election.
Commissioner K. Doyle Allen was not convinced, noting violating the plan wasn’t necessary because a rejected plan from the Department of Justice would lead the Commission right back to where it started without abandoning its proposed plan.
“If this is rejected, it will be sent back to us for further review,” Allen said. “We still may accomplish what we want to do.”
Before the Department of Justice reviews the plan, Wright said it was possible the county would be taken to court by the Alabama Democratic Conference, the black caucus in the Alabama Legislature. The East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission and the conference proposed a plan not adopted by the commission which would have increased the minority percentage population in District 5.
“We can’t wait around for the Justice Department to say go back to the drawing board,” Wright said. “Just rescind the resolution, and we can go ahead and start redistricting now.”
Wright’s motion to rescind was not seconded, and the motion died.
The discussion of possible abandonment for the plan was spearheaded by Sheppard on Thursday at the commission meeting workshop. Wright said the motion wouldn’t have carried had Sheppard attended the commission meeting Monday, noting the plan would still be opposed by the other three commissioners.
Undeterred, Wright said after the meeting the Commission still had time to rescind the measure before review by the Department of Justice, but added “I don’t see it happening.”
“Why get a scolding?” Wright said. “Let’s just do right the right thing.”
Roanoke resident Jeff Nolen called Wright’s efforts “admirable,” but said the motion was doomed because a commissioner who voted in the affirmative would need to rescind the proposal for the action to pass.
As part of a new website launching on Wednesday, Nolen was on hand to film the meeting. During the public forum he said cameras would be a regular part of the meetings.
“This will help open up visibility and transparency,” Nolen said on posting commission meetings online through a liked Youtube account. He instructed the commissioners to “pay no mind to the cameras,” during the meeting.
Nolen said the project isn’t financed by the county, nor will he ask for the commission to cover funds.
“Right now, the only person it is costing is myself,” he said.
In other business, the commission:
-- Approved the 2011-2012 fiscal year budget.
-- Tabled discussion on providing service for Roanoke’s solid waste service.
-- Tabled discussion on allowing a local church to use area near the Spic and Span car wash for a yard sale.
-- Approved an agreement between the County Commission, Randolph Sheriff’s Office and local two truck companies to share vehicles.
Star staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546