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New voting districts get preclearance

Advance voting under way for municipal races

POSTED: October 19, 2011 9:11 a.m.

Though a Thursday night meeting of the Hinesville City Council addressed allegations that its municipal election could be in jeopardy, the tides appear to have turned.

On Monday, the city received a letter of preclearance from the U.S. Department of Justice that makes the city’s proposed, or “new,” district lines adopted in August legally effective, according to city officials.

City Attorney Linnie Darden III said the announcement was “good news” and noted that the legal effect of the letter dates back to the date of the city’s submission of the new lines, which the Department of Justice received Aug. 26. 

Hinesville city clerk Sarah Lumpkin said she received the letter by fax at 11:58 a.m. Monday.

“The Attorney General does not interpose any objection to the specified change. However, we note that Section 5 (of the Voting Rights Act of 1965) expressly provides that the failure of the Attorney General to object does not bar subsequent litigation to enjoin the enforcement of the change,” the letter said.

“Future litigation is left open on any and everything,” Darden said, explaining the clause.

“We’re certainly glad to get the letter in and get it behind us,” Hinesville City Manager Billy Edwards said. “It just shows that we’re headed in the right direction.”

He said that votes should not be affected by the timing of the letter.

“I do know that early voting started this morning, and the last report I had, everything was going OK,” he said.

Georgia Municipal Association Public Information Manager Amy Henderson confirmed on Monday that the timing of the preclearance letter should not affect the election, as long as all materials are prepared according to the precleared lines.

The Liberty County Board of Elections agreed Friday to conduct the elections utilizing new district boundaries in advance of formal preclearance, but the city agreed to assume the risks associated with the use of the new district lines, according to a document signed by Board of Elections Chairman Dicky Braun and Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas.

 Due to the timing of the agreement, voters whose district assignments have changed will not be notified in advance of the Nov. 8 election. Those unsure whether their district assignments have changed should contact the voter registration office at 876-3310.

 

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