Calera delegation confident of election solution

Published 3:30 pm Friday, April 17, 2009

Members of a delegation from the city of Calera who met with U.S. Justice Department officials in Washington, D.C. April 13 regarding the rejection of last year’s election results are confident a solution is near.

“I think our meeting was very productive,” said attorney Eason Mitchell, a Calera native who acted as a community spokesman. “(The Justice Department) showed great hospitality and concern for our problem, and they told us they would do their best to expedite consideration of a plan.”

The Justice Department rejected the city’s 2008 redistricting plan for a second time last month, claiming the plan eliminates the city’s only African-American voting district.

Newly elected Mayor Jon Graham and city council members have not been sworn in as a result of the Justice Department’s decision.

Both parties agreed to a special election this year if the districts were not approved, according to a consent decree filed last October.

Mitchell said the special election was among the topics discussed in Washington. Justice Department officials also provided the delegation with mathematical models to determine whether a minority district is feasible.

“It would be very difficult to have a minority district because of the great growth of Calera,” Mitchell said. “The minority population in the new area is what it should be – integrated in the white population. We don’t have segregation in Calera, Alabama.”

Mitchell said having a limited or cumulative election are other options.

In a limited election, everybody gets one vote and the top vote getters win the seats, Mitchell said.

A cumulative election is more difficult. For example, if there are eight council seats, each citizen gets eight votes that are divided at their discretion.

“You can vote any way you want to. You can put all eight votes for one councilman, or four for one councilman and four for the other,” Mitchell said. “Cumulative is more complicated, but research indicates the voters do quite well with this method.”

Mitchell said the delegation will write a memo reviewing the meeting for city leaders who will meet April 20 for their regular work session and council meeting.

Mitchell traveled to Washington with Dan Head, a partner of the law firm Wallace, Ellis, Fowler and Head, which represents the city, and District Two Councilman Ernest Montgomery.