Justice Department to decide on Calera voting districts

The U.S. Justice Department will decide whether to approve Calera’s new voting districts on or before March 24, said City Attorney Frank “Butch” Ellis.

If the districts are approved, Mayor-elect Jon Graham and newly elected council members will assume office seven months after winning their respective elections, Ellis told city leaders during a council work session on Monday.

Last October, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging Calera’s voting districts violate a section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Justice Department maintains the voting districts eliminate the city’s only majority-minority district.

Ellis has provided Justice Department officials with the city’s demographic data since the lawsuit was filed. Ellis is hopeful that the Justice Department will rule in the city’s favor.

“I’m optimistic that we’ll get a favorable hearing. They’ve asked questions and we’ve supplied answers,” he said.

In other news:

The city council unanimously approved an agreement with the Credit Bureau of Bessemer, Inc., which will collect late payments such as traffic fines, library fines and utility bills for the city. City Clerk Linda Steele said the bureau will get 35 percent of the amount collected. That percentage will be added to the original payment, which means the city won’t lose money, Steele said.