Last week community members in Greene County, Georgia succeeded in convincing the Department of Justice to issue an objection to the County’s proposed redistricting plans. Using its authority under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the Department prevented the implementation of new election districts that would have prevented black voters in the county from being able to elect candidates of their choice. In the objection letter dated April 13th, 2012, the Assistant Attorney General writes, “The elimination of both ability-to-elect districts was unnecessary and avoidable. Although there has been a decrease in the black share of the county’s population over the past ten years, the ability to draw at least one black ability-to-elect district still existed.”
This victory was a result of the efforts of the local NAACP chapter, and African American leaders who paid close attention to the redistricting process, and then organized to ensure their voices were heard. SCSJ board member, Jerry Wilson, who lives in Greene County, helped to ensure that the local group got the assistance they needed. . He says that SCSJ played an important support role. Community members attended meetings, engaged county commissioners and school board members opposed to the proposed changes, drew alternative maps demonstrating it was possible to maintain an ability-to elect district for Black voters, and wrote letters talking about how they would be affected by the changes.
The objection is significant for Black Belt counties like this one in Georgia. Over 60% of the county formerly was African American, before an influx of white retirees, people moving out of Atlanta, and investors began to settle in the area and developed major resorts around Lake Oconee. According the 2010 census, the county is now only 38.4% African American. Without this action by the Department of Justice, black voters in the county would have lost their voice in local government.
Green County DOJ Letter(4-12) (2).pdf