Election Law Update
United States District Judge Timothy Batten, Sr. found that at-large voting for Fayette County Commission seats violates the voting rights act and struck down the voting plan, asking the County to present a remedial plan for this year’s elections by June 25th.
Batten’s Tuesday order grants summary judgment to the individual plaintiffs in the case along with the state conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who had argued that the county’s district voting process precluded black candidates from winning a seat on the county commission and board of education.
The judge’s order grants the plaintiff’s wish to create a district voting scenario, which is markedly different than the current at-large voting process. Currently, all Fayette voters are allowed to vote on all five seats on the county commission and board of education.
Under district voting, voters will be limited to choosing just one person for each governing body, depending on where each voter lives.
In his order, Batten determined that the current at-large voting process “essentially guarantees that no African-American will be elected to either board.”
Whether the plan submitted by the County will include a majority-minority district is unclear, according to the AJC.
[Fayette County Commission Chair Steve] Brown said [Judge] Batten conceded in his ruling that he would be hard-pressed to create a majority-minority district — a point the county’s own demographers said would be hard to achieve. At best, a district would yield 47 percent minority voting power, Brown said.
“He (Batten) literally admitted in the opinion that he could not come up with a majority-minority district. It was kind of odd because it’s very clear what you need to prove to show that you have any kind of discriminatory activity. That was never proven.”
Getting rid of at-large voting is by-and-large a cleanup operation now, dealing with individual situations where it remains. Bigger changes to Georgia’s voting laws may be on the way from another federal District Court, where Judge Steve C. Jones has found that Georgia’s runoff elections violate the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act of 1986 (“UOCAVA”).
The forty-five day deadline and transmittal period established in the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act of 1986 (“UOCAVA”), as amended, specifically 42 U.S.C. § 1973ff-1(a)(8)(A), applies to all federal runoff elections.
The additional requirement for runoff elections set forth in § 1973ff-1(a)(9) does not alter the forty-five day deadline established for runoff elections in § 1973ff-1(a)(8).
Defendants’ inability under Georgia’s current electoral system to transmit absentee ballots (that standing alone allow the voter to cast a meaningful vote) in future federal runoff elections to qualified military and overseas voters (i.e., UOCAVA voters) who have requested them by the forty-fifth day before such an election violates § 1973ff-1(a)(8)(A) of UOCAVA.
As to the matter of relief, the Court rules as follows. Within twenty days (20) of the issuance of this order, Defendants shall confer with Plaintiff and thereafter submit to the Court written proposed changes to Georgia’s election laws that show full compliance with UOCAVA as to all future federal runoff elections.
Plaintiff shall file a response within twenty (20) days of Defendants’ filing. In the event that the Defendants fail to present a proposal that fully complies with all UOCAVA requirements, the Court will order an appropriate remedy that will govern all of Georgia’s future runoff elections unless and until there is an enactment of changes to Georgia’s election laws that fully comply with all UOCAVA requirements, as determined by this Court.
So what does this mean? Very likely the end of runoff elections as we know them in Georgia, at least as far as federal elections are concerned. Whether we end up with a longer runoff period, or dispense with the greatest invention in
political consulting democracy remains to be seen. It is possible that the state will retain the current runoff election structure for state elections, but it’s also possible that a federal court will end up deciding what some future elections look like in the Peach State.
Tyrone Brooks and Roy Barnes Together Again
Reprising their teamwork to change the Georgia flag in 2001, Tyrone Brooks has hired Roy Barnes to represent him in court after the state legislator was indicted.
The cause Brooks has asked Barnes, who re-entered private practice after he lost a re-election bid in 2002, to take on this time is personal: defend him against charges that he defrauded charitable donors of more than $1 million and filed false income tax returns.
Barnes’ presence manifested itself just days after U.S. Attorney Sally Yates of the Northern District of Georgia announced the indictment of the 67-year-old Brooks.
In a gesture ripe with symbolism, Brooks had vowed to media outlets across the state that he would respond to the charges at a news conference he scheduled for Thursday at Moore’s Ford Bridge, where he has led annual re-enactments of the lynchings. Brooks has said that the FBI targeted him because he has pushed the agency to solve the 1946 case and prosecute the killers.
On Monday, Brooks’ office announced a change of plans. The news conference will take place instead at Barnes’ Marietta law offices.
Tea Party Protest Yesterday at the Georgia State Capitol
Former Congressman Bob Barr also spoke at the event.
Bob Barr, the former Georgia congressman who is now once again running for office, painted a dark picture.
“The deep-seated systemic corruption that has infested not just this administration but so many in Washington, that’s why we need change in Washington.”
Barr referred to himself as an “impeachment manager.” While in Congress, Barr led efforts to impeach President Clinton. He vowed to pursue the scandal “like a bulldog” if elected back to Congress.
Tea Party Supports Solar Expansion
According to a story by Ray Henry with the Associated Press, expanding solar power in Georgia is also a Tea Party issue.
State utility regulators heard testimony Tuesday on the energy plans from Southern Co. subsidiary Georgia Power, which must submit new plans every three years. Advocates for the state’s solar power industry and tea party leaders fault Georgia Power for not including new forms of solar energy in its planning.
“We think solar is the way to go,” Debbie Dooley, a coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, told the elected members of the Public Service Commission. “The sun is free, it’s there. Understand Georgia Power is not being as aggressive on solar power and solar energy as they should be because they’re trying to protect their monopoly.”
Savannah Harbor Expansion Project
Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Curtis Foltz told the Cobb Chamber of Commerce Chairman’s Club that he remains hopeful the federal government will pledge additional funds toward the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project. From the Atlanta Business Chronicle,
“We strongly believe that the federal government will step up to the plate in a big way in the Fiscal Year 2015 budget,” Foltz said in response to a question. “We believe it will bubble up to the top.”
If significant federal dollars to deepen the Savannah Port were to be included in the FY2015 budget (which begins in July 2014), Foltz said the project would take about three years, meaning it could be completed by the end of 2016.
Foltz said the case to deepen the Savannah Port is strong. Currently the Savannah Port is the fastest-growing container port in the country yet it is “the shallowest major port in the world.” Also, the Savannah Port exports more goods (54 percent) than it imports (46 percent) — helping provide a better trade balance for the United States.
As Foltz said: “We can’t imagine there is a better investment in infrastructure for a port that’s export dominant and the fastest-growing port in the country.”
Chuck Eaton at GAGOP State Convention
Public Service Commissioner Chuck Eaton echoed concerns voiced by Governor Deal about the GAGOP’s ability to compete in future elections as demographic changes shift the Peach State electorate. From an editorial by Tom Crawford:
“If you want to know what the future electorate of Georgia looks like, look at those who are in our schools right now,” the governor added. “We cannot afford to lose those votes, those volunteers, those potential public servants, because of negative perceptions of the Republican Party. We must reach out to those individuals.”
Public Service Commissioner Chuck Eaton tried to get across a similar message in his convention speech, noting that in recent years the percentage of white registered voters in Georgia has decreased from more than 70 percent to about 58 percent, with a corresponding increase in the percentage of nonwhite voters.
“I’m not talking about softening our values,” Eaton said. “I’m talking about reaching out to people who ought to be sharing our values.”
Deal and Eaton were making the same point that has been made on the national level by such party figures as Karl Rove: Republicans need to expand beyond their traditional base of white supporters and try to appeal to other demographic groups, such as the fast-growing Latino community.
Upcoming Event Highlights
Southeastern Campaign for Life will hold an event, “Unmasking the True War on Women” at the City Club of Buckhead in the Atlanta Financial Center tonight.
The reception and panel discussion will be from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm at the City Club of Buckhead at 3343 Peachtree Road, NE # 1850, in the Buckhead district in Atlanta. You can park in the deck behind the Atlanta Financial Center and bring your ticket in for validation.
The Susan B. Anthony List and Event Chairman Jo Anne Reed, Georgia Commissioner Tim Echols, Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, Deal Hudson, Joe O’Farrell and Mark Wingate are leading this event and have extended invitation to anyone who wishes to attend.
The event will be moderated by Marjorie Dannenfelser, SBA List President and will feature former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, State Rep. Donna Sheldon, who is running for Congress in the Tenth District, and columnist, media personality, author, and former Republican candidate for the United States House of Representatives, Martha Zoller.
Walton County Barbecue
Walton County Republican Party Chairman Roy Roberts sent out the latest listing of all-star attendees at the Walton County GOP Barbecue on May 28th in Monroe, Ga. Contact: Roy Roberts 770-267-2706. Tickets are available from any Republican Party member or can be purchased by sending check to Dick Hester P.O. Bx 102 Monroe, Ga 30655
Senator Johnny Isakson
Governor Sonny Perdue
Lt Gov Casey Cagle
Secretary of State Brian Kemp
Attorney General Sam Olens
Commissioner of Ag Gary Black
Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens
Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler
Candidates for U.S. Senate
Candidates for Congress
Congressman Rob Woodall
Public Service Commissioner Bubba McDonald