Calera waits for Justice Department response

Published 4:36 pm Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Calera city attorney Frank “Butch” Ellis is confident the U.S. Justice Department will certify the results of the city’s Aug. 26 election, but the department must first adopt a cooperative behavior.

The Justice Department has not yet approved Calera’s redistricting plan because officials fear the plan discriminates against minorities. New voting lines were drawn in response to the city’s growing population. In addition, more whites than minorities have moved to Calera, making it difficult to maintain a predominantly black voting district.

If the plan is not approved by Nov. 2, the current mayor and city council will remain in office until a solution is reached. The Oct. 7 runoff for mayor and the District 4 council seat has not been postponed.

After a two-hour conversation with Justice Department officials, Ellis met with the city council Monday to discuss new developments. Ellis said the department wants more information regarding the percentage of the minority population to the white population, voting age and other demographic data.

“By and large the Justice Department is saying that they’re just not confident the demographic data we submitted is valid,” Ellis said.

Ellis said he wants to avoid conducting a special census, and the Justice Department agreed to provide a list of other cities who faced a similar situation without conducting a special census. The department has been slow to provide the list, Ellis said.

“They have not followed through with their promise to supply a list of those cities. I don’t understand why,” Ellis said.

“The ball is in their court. The clock is ticking against us, and we’ve got this deadline of Nov. 2 to get something in,” Ellis added. ” We’re just trying to figure out now whether we’ll be able to supply the information they want and the form they they want it in.”

Ellis said the city has requested reconsideration from the Justice Department. He is awaiting a response.