Calera election results still not approved

Published 6:17 pm Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A new demographic survey compiled by city officials may prompt the U.S. Justice Department to certify municipal election results.

The justice department still has not 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.

Attorney Frank “Butch” Ellis briefed city officials at a work session Tuesday, saying more than 3,000 surveys were mailed to every household in Calera’s newest subdivisions and apartments.

According to Ellis, there is a substantial increase in the city’s minority population residing in predominantly white neighborhoods. Also, there is a decreased number of minorities residing in minority concentrated districts.

“The new districts do in fact contain large numbers of blacks moving into white neighborhoods,” Ellis said. “Our data supports what we’ve been saying.”

The justice department favors a 10 percent survey return rate, which experts consider statistically significant. Ellis said the new survey has a 25 to 30 percent return rate.

The survey results will be submitted to the justice department “before the week’s over,” Ellis said.

If the redistricting plan is not approved by Nov. 2, the current mayor and city council will remain in office.

“We know we can’t seat you guys unless we get justice department pre-clearance,” Ellis told this year’s election winners. “It’s not an opinion, that’s just the way it is.”

Ellis proposed to enter a consent decree in federal court for a judge to rule against the city seating its new elected officials until the redistricting plan is approved.

If the justice department doesn’t approve the plan, the city may be forced to redo the election using new district lines. Ellis is confident this scenario won’t happen.

“I believe when the justice department sees (the survey), they will be favorably impressed with it,” Ellis said.

Following the work session, the city council canvassed and certified the results of last week’s runoff.

Jon Graham defeated Councilman Bobby Joe Phillips for mayor, 925-618.

In the District 4 runoff, Councilman David Bradshaw defeated Brad Frasure, 279-156.