||U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
|Office of the Assistant Attorney General
||Washington, DC 20530
| ||September 3, 2002|
C. Havird Jones, Jr., Esq.
Senior Assistant Attorney General
P.O. Box 11549
Columbia, South Carolina 29211-1549
Dear Mr. Jones:
This refers to Act R.192 (2002), which provides the
redistricting plan, the method of staggering terms, and the
implementation schedule for the Union County School District in
Union County, South Carolina, submitted to the Attorney General
pursuant to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1973c.
We received your responses to our June 17, 2002, request for
additional information through August 20, 2002.
We have carefully considered the information you have
provided, as well as information in our files, census data, and
information and comments from other interested persons. In light
of the considerations discussed below, I cannot conclude that
your burden under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act has been
sustained in this instance. Therefore, on behalf of the Attorney
General, I am compelled to object to the 2002 redistricting plan.
The 2000 Census indicates that Union County School District
has a population of 29,881, of whom 9,291 (31.1%) are black
persons. The board of trustees consists of nine members elected
from single-member districts to four-year staggered terms.
Elections are nonpartisan, plurality-win contests conducted at
the same time as the general election in even-numbered years.
Under 2000 Census data, two of the nine districts in the
benchmark plan have both total and voting-age populations that
are majority black, Districts 1 and 7. Available information is
that prior to the adoption of the benchmark plan in 1989, no
black candidates had been elected to the board of trustees.
Since the 1989 plan was implemented in 1990, our analysis
indicates that Districts 1 and 7 have often elected candidates of
choice for black voters to the board of trustees. The proposed
plan would drop District 1 by roughly four points in the black
share of the total and voting age population, and would drop
District 7 by roughly seven points in the black share of the
total and voting age population.
Our review of the benchmark and proposed plans, as well as
alternative plans introduced in the legislature, suggests that
the magnitude of the reductions in black voting age population
percentages in Districts 1 and 7 in the proposed plan was neither
inevitable nor required by any constitutional or legal
imperative; alternative redistricting approaches available to the
State avoided significant reductions in black voting strength
while adhering substantially to the State's redistricting goals
as presented in your submission. The State's failure to account
fully for not considering these alternatives implies an intent to
retrogress. Further, should the State believe that such an
altered plan conflicts with its redistricting goals, we note that
"compliance with Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act may require
the jurisdiction to depart from strict adherence to certain of
its redistricting criteria." Guidance Concerning Redistricting
and Retrogression Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, 66
Fed. Reg. 5412 (Jan. 18, 2001).
Also revealing is the fact that, in contrast to the process
which led to the 1989 benchmark plan, the proposed plan here was
developed without any formal public hearings in the county, and
without any opportunity for black members of the local board of
trustees and the local black community to voice what we
understand to be considerable concerns regarding the plan,
resulting in an atmosphere of secrecy. Moreover, the State
failed fully to comply with our repeated requests for further
information concerning electoral contests between black and white
candidates, and for certain information omitted from the original
submission, including the transcript of the one legislative
debate in which the potentially retrogressive effect of the
submitted plan was discussed.
Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the submitting
authority has the burden of showing that a submitted change has
neither a discriminatory purpose nor a discriminatory effect.
Georgia v. United States, 411 U.S. 526 (1973); Beer v.
United States, 425 U.S. 125 (1976); Reno v. Bossier Parish School Board,
528 U.S. 320 (2000); see also Procedures for the Administration
of Section 5 (28 C.F.R. 51.52). Analysis of the question of
whether the proposed plan is motivated by an intent to retrogress
is guided by the factors set forth in Village of Arlington
Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Development Corp., 429 U.S. 252
In light of the considerations discussed above, I cannot
conclude that the State has sustained its burden that the
proposed plan was not motivated by a discriminatory intent to
cause a retrogression in minority voters' effective exercise of
the electoral franchise. Therefore, on behalf of the Attorney
General, I must object to the submitted redistricting plan for
Union County School District.
Under Section 5 you have the right to seek a declaratory
judgment from the United States District Court for the District
of Columbia that the proposed changes neither have the purpose
nor will have the effect of denying or abridging the right to
vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language
minority group. See 28 C.F.R. 51.44. In addition, you may
request that the Attorney General reconsider the objection. See
28 C.F.R. 51.45. However, until the objection is withdrawn or a
judgment from the District of Columbia Court is obtained, the
changes continue to be legally unenforceable. Clark v. Roemer,
500 U.S. 646 (1991); 28 C.F.R. 51.10.
Because the change in the method of staggering terms and the
implementation schedule are dependent upon the objected-to
redistricting plan, it would be inappropriate for the Attorney
General to make a preclearance determination on them. See 28
To enable us to meet our responsibility to enforce the
Voting Rights Act, please inform us of the action the State of
South Carolina plans to take concerning the redistricting for the
Union County School District. If you have any questions, you
should call Mr. Chris Herren (202-514-1416), an attorney in the
Voting Section. Refer to File No. 2002-2379 in any response to
this letter so that your correspondence will be channeled
Ralph F. Boyd, Jr.
Assistant Attorney General