Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 9, 2016

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 9, 2016

The Creek Indians signed the Treaty of Fort Jackson on August 9, 1814, giving up control over large parts of South Georgia.

Herman E. Talmadge was born on August 9, 1913, son of Eugene Talmadge, who later served as Governor. Herman Talmadge himself served as Governor and United States Senator from Georgia.

Gerald Ford was sworn in as President of the United States on August 9, 1974. Ford had become Vice President on December 6, 1973, after Spiro Agnew resigned.

Athens and Clarke County voted to merge into a unified government on August 8, 1990, effective Jaunary 14, 1991.

Jerry Garcia died on August 9, 1995.

On August 9, 1999, former Georgia Governor and President Jimmy Carter was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor by Bill Clinton.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns and Elections

A federal lawsuit has been filed alleging that districts for the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners and Board of Education dilute the voting strength of minority voting blocs.

The Georgia NAACP, the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials and the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed the lawsuit Monday morning. The groups are accusing the county of violating Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by drawing districts that dilute the strength of minority voting blocks.

“This case exemplifies the need to safeguard access to the ballot to ensure that the right to vote is not impeded by the redistricting process,” Georgia NAACP President Francys Johnson said in a statement.

“When district lines have been drawn to marginalize minority voters, a lawsuit brought under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act is sometimes the only way minority voters can achieve parity with white voters and have the ability to elect candidates who are responsive to their needs and concerns.”

“We believe that the lack of diversity on these boards is attributable to the current district maps which dilute minority voting strength by packing and fragmenting the minority population, combined with a pattern of racially polarized voting in which white voters typically vote as a bloc to prevent minority preferred candidates from willing elections,” [said Lawyers’ Committee President and Executive Director Kristen Clarke].

The Gainesville Times looks at whether the Gwinnett County voting rights lawsuit could affect Hall County and Gainesville.

The lawsuit filed Monday could have significant implications for Gainesville as the Latino population grows locally.

“What we’re asking for is the elimination of at-large voting, as well as a total redrawing of all of the maps,” said Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials. “I think this should send a message to all jurisdictions.”

According to U.S. Census estimates, there are about 36,000 residents in Gainesville, and about 42 percent of the population is Latino, about 39 percent is white alone and about 15 percent is African-American.

But no Latino has ever served on the council.

Gonzalez said he believes a Latino-majority district can be carved out in the city and that “there is clearly is a historical coalition between Latinos and African-Americans in the city of Gainesville.”

But city officials dispute this.

“There’s not (a district) that can meet that standard,” Dunagan said, adding that he is willing to “work it out” with groups like GALEO when and if Latinos can be shown to encompass a majority of a potential district.

[A] federal court ruled in 2014 that Fayette County’s at-large voting system violated the Voting Rights Act and a majority black district was carved out for county commission and school board elections.

AccessWDUN spoke to a UGA professor about the voting rights lawsuit.

Lori Ringhand, a law professor at the University of Georgia, said courts can determine that political lines violate the law even without proof of intent to minimize minority voters’ influence.
“(The law) is an effects test,” said Ringhand, who’s not involved with the Gwinnett suit. “So if a district line is drawn in a way that dilutes minority voting power, it can violate a portion of the law.”
Gwinnett’s population boomed in the 1980s, when it was ranked the fastest growing county of more than 100,000 residents in the United States. Decades later, the county’s minority population increased 135 percent between the 2000 and 2010 U.S. Census, including a triple-digit increase in the county’s Hispanic population.
And WABE spoke to an Emory law professor about the lawsuit.

“It’s kind of a modern-era Voting Rights Act claim,” said Michael Kang, a professor of law at Emory University, referring to the cases after 2013 when the Supreme Court struck down a key provision in the Voting Rights Act in Shelby v. Holder.

“Everything is shifting to these types of Section Two claims that puts the onus on the plaintiff to bring suit,” Kang said.

He said the claim in this lawsuit is complicated.

“The fact that you’re not winning elections is not enough for a Voting Rights Act claim,” Kang said. “You have to show that under a different set of circumstances, if the lines are drawn in some other way that make sense – that’s not fantastical – that you would win.”

Jerry Gonzalez of GALEO characterized the situation as a “disconnect.”

“Gwinnett County government does not care about Latinos,” said Jerry Gonzalez, the executive director of GALEO, on a call with reporters on Monday. “There’s a disconnect between the leadership in Gwinnett County and the reality of the diversity,” he added.

The Gwinnett County lawsuit is part of ongoing post-Shelby election administration monitoring across Georgia, Francys Johnson, president of the Georgia NAACP, said in a statement.

“The NAACP will mortgage every asset we have to defend the unfettered access to the ballot,” he added. “It was paid for with the blood, sweat and tears of our ancestors – it’s sacred.”

And the Los Angeles Times weighs in,

“We found it remarkable and startling that in an area with such tremendous racial diversity, you had the outright exclusion of African Americans and Latinos from the political life of the county,” Clarke told reporters on a conference call Monday. “This is a long-standing and historical problem that we seek to uproot.”

She said the problem is part of a wider pattern of racial tension in a county where black parents have raised concerns about how public schools discipline their children and Latinos have criticized county law enforcement for rounding up immigrants living in the country illegally.

Once sleepy, rural and predominantly white, Gwinnett County by the mid-1980s became the fastest-growing county in the nation and a poster child for suburban sprawl.

The population today is nearly 900,000, including the largest Latino community in the Southeast. Drawn by affordable housing, Latinos jumped from 3% of the county’s population in 1990 to 20% in 2010.

“Gwinnett County government does not care about Latinos and has done very little about reaching out to the Latino community,” said Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of the state’s association of Latino elected officials. He noted that this year officials refused to make Spanish-language ballots available to residents who have difficulty reading English.

“Until it’s an inclusive government, it’s a fraudulent government,” Gonzalez said.

Since 2002, a total of 12 minority candidates — eight African Americans, three Latinos and an Asian — have run for the Board of Commissioners or the Board of Education, according to the lawsuit. All have lost to whites.

Brian Whiteside, a black attorney who ran unsuccessfully for county sheriff in 2004 and county clerk of court in 2012, said some of the blame rests with activists for not doing enough to register minority voters and get them out on election days to cast ballots.

“Instead of trying to blame the county and the commissioners, they need to spend the money on viable candidates,” he said. “Minorities in Gwinnett County out-populate all the whites. White people come out and vote. Minorities don’t come out and vote.”

Normally I wouldn’t excerpt that much from a single source, but Jenny Jarvie for the LA Times wrote the best article I’ve read on the lawsuit, and it’s worth reading in its entirety.

Longtime Gwinnett educator and current Chairman of the Georgia House Education Committee, Brooks Coleman (R-Duluth) was on hand for opening day at the new Coleman Elementary School, named in his honor.

Once the students arrived, they assembled in the gym for a pep rally-like atmosphere to learn more about Coleman and the school’s culture. Coleman drew laughter and cheers from the crowd when he did a rendition of the ABC song and shimmied his hips.

He encouraged the students to have a commitment to the school, be proud of it and learn to communicate by shaking hands and looking each other in the eye.

Coleman shared history about the school, and property that has housed four schools since the 1800s, how he taught [Coleman Middle School Principal J.W.] Mozley’s mother there, and how he serves as chairman of the State House Education Committee.

“The kids are energized, they were engaged,” Mozley said after the assembly. “They were just excited to be at this new place, hear from Brooks. Everyone is glad to be here. … Everything we planned has come to reality.”

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed says that Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign should be investing $8-15 million in Georgia this year.

“I have said all along that Georgia is winnable,” Reed said. “If I were in Secretary Clinton’s shoes and I had an opportunity to win a state and I had a billion dollars, then $8-$15 million is a logical investment.”

Reed said he had no preference in how Clinton or the Democrats spent the money – whether it be in television ads or on the ground get out the vote efforts.

“I know the people who are working with her and I am confident that they will do the right thing,” Reed said.

The City of Clermont, Georgia is leading the way in updating its local sign ordinance to comply with the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Clermont ended a sign permit moratorium last week by rolling out a new sign ordinance that complies with a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling restricting governments from regulating sign content.

“What we tried to do is push our ordinance to where we eliminate anything that’s arguably a content-based regulation for signs,” City Attorney David Syfan said.

“Under the federal law, if you do content regulation, you have to show a compelling government interest in doing so, and that’s a very hard standard to meet,” he said. “Most ordinances can’t survive that scrutiny.”

Last September, Hall County officials said they chose to make ordinance changes and additions to clarify that free speech will not be infringed. Two months later, Lula proposed changes to its sign ordinance that explicitly said it doesn’t restrict sign content.

The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office will hold its third annual Burgers and Shakes event on Saturday to promote community engagement.

Tybee Island identified 13 sea turtle nests this season, up from its average of ten per year.

Similar nest inventories will be repeated 3,242 times across Coastal Georgia by the end of the loggerhead hatching season in October. Wildlife supporters are giddy with the number of nests, a new record that shattered last year’s high of 2,319 nests. It’s the culmination of years of effort like this one on Tybee, involving hundreds of volunteers and staff who patrol Georgia beaches each summer day at dawn, identify and protect nests, and document the outcome.

Tybee has 13 nests this year, just a little above its average of 10, Smith said. But at the nest excavation, it was all about the turtles in hand.

The final count for this nest: 105 hatched, 20 unhatched, three dead and, what everyone had really come to witness, three live. The crowd cheered as Smith and her crew released the hatchling trio at the water’s edge. Two disappeared quickly under the waves and one, a bit lethargic, lingered for more photo ops.

Former Georgia State School Superintendent John Barge will not be speaking at the Floyd County Republican Party’s Tillman Hangar Rally on August 13, but Georgia GOP Chairman John Padgett will.

Former Cobb County Republican Party Chair Joe Dendy has been indicted by a Grand Jury on thirteen charges including child molestation and sexual battery.

Tom Cheater submitted his resignation from the Marietta Board of Education, and will be replaced in a Special Election, possibly in March 2017.

Cheater’s resignation will take effect Sept 20. Representing Ward 6 since 2009, Cheater sent his letter of resignation to Superintendent Emily Lembeck on Wednesday. Waters said the resignation was due to Cheater’s planned move outside his district.

Cheater’s term ends in December 2017, and he is serving as the board’s vice chair. He represents Lockheed and Sawyer Road elementary schools.

Former Warner Robins Mayor Henrietta McIntyre has died.

In 1974, she and another woman became the first female council members elected in Warner Robins. She would go on to serve 21 years, including a one-year stint as Mayor.

She became the city’s first and only female mayor in 1993. The council appointed her to serve as interim mayor after the previous mayor was forced out of office over a scandal.

Former President Jimmy Carter has joined a chorus of Georgians opposed to bringing out-of-state coal ash to Wayne County landfills.

Carter wrote a letter in late June to [Bill] Gates, reportedly the largest shareholder of the landfill company, beseeching the Microsoft founder to “help to prevent this environmental derogation.”

“This will adversely impact some favorite streams of mine, where my father took me fishing many years ago,” Carter wrote June 28 in a handwritten note to Gates.

Carter’s letter underscores the range of tactics landfill opponents are deploying to keep more coal ash out of South Georgia landfills. They’ve filled public hearings, hired attorneys, penned strident editorials, lobbied elected officials, established an anti-coal ash website and filed countless comments with state and federal permitting agencies. All to keep Republic, the nation’s No. 2 waste-disposal company, from bringing as many as 100 train car loads of coal ash daily to Wayne County.

“We also share President Carter’s conviction that the wetlands in Wayne County are worth every effort to preserve and protect,” Republic spokesman Russ Knocke said. “We remain committed to being a good neighbor and doing our part to ensure the preservation of this special ecosystem.”

Georgia Health News writes about the mathematics and finances of expanding Medicaid in Georgia.

For each dollar that Georgia would have to spend on Medicaid expansion, it would gain $8.68 to $9.42 in federal spending, a new study said Monday.

The report from the Urban Institute analyzes the potential costs and benefits for the 19 states (including Georgia) that have not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

The authors said that, according to every expansion state that has analyzed the issue, expansion has improved state budgets, despite higher spending in parts of the Medicaid program.

A task force formed by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, meanwhile, is finalizing recommendations for the state to increase access to medical services for the uninsured. The Chamber recommendations are expected to focus on a more conservative approach to potential Medicaid expansion than other states have chosen.

Republican candidate Donald Trump (like the leading GOP rivals he beat for the nomination) has talked about scrapping the ACA, so it’s hard to say what would happen to Medicaid expansion if he’s elected.

Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has reiterated her longtime support of the ACA, Custer noted, and thus Medicaid expansion would be more or less cemented in place on the federal level for four years if she wins the White House.

Bainbridge City Council voted to lower the property tax millage rate by one-half mill for 2017.

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