Justice Department rejects Calera voting districts

The U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday rejected new voting districts used by the city of Calera last year, which means Mayor-elect Jon Graham and newly elected City Council members still cannot assume office.

The Justice Department alleges the city did not receive preclearance for new voting districts before the Aug. 26 general election – a violation of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Justice Department also maintains the city eliminated its only majority-minority district.

City officials first asked the Justice Department to reconsider the decision last September. In a letter to City Attorney Frank “Butch” Ellis, Acting Assistant Attorney General Loretta King wrote, “Having reviewed these materials, I remain unable to conclude that the city of Calera has carried its burden of showing that the submitted changes have neither a discriminatory purpose nor a discriminatory effect.”

City leaders will meet Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Calera City Hall to discuss further action. Graham said he is disgusted by the news.

“They’ve denied our second request for approval, and it’s frustrating,” he said. “I was looking forward to putting this problem behind us.”