Justice Department sues City of Calera over new voting districts

Published 10:54 pm Monday, October 27, 2008

CALERA – The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the city of Calera in U.S. District Court Friday, alleging the city’s new voting districts violate a section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The Justice Department maintains Calera’s new voting districts eliminates the city’s only majority-minority district.

According to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, a city must obtain preclearance from the U.S. Attorney General or the U.S. District Court for any changes with reference to voting. The legislation prevents a city from weakening the strength of minority voters by changing electoral practices.

The Justice Department claims Calera officials did not obtain preclearance for its new voting districts before the Aug. 26 general election. The city has agreed to abandon its new voting districts until preclearance is obtained.

In addition, the city will not swear in Mayor-elect Jon Graham and Councilmembers-elect Chris Bunn, Eric Snyder, Brian Latham, David Bradshaw and Mike Roberson on Nov. 3. The current mayor and city council will remain in office until the lawsuit is resolved.

City Attorney Frank “Butch” Ellis has asked for the Justice Department to reconsider its decision, and the Attorney General has committed to providing a decision no later than Nov. 17.