||U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
|Office of the Assistant Attorney General
||Washington, DC 20530
| ||September 16, 2003|
The Honorable H. Bruce Buckheister
P.O. Box 399
North, South Carolina 29112
Dear Mayor Buckheister:
I am writing in regards to the two annexations (Ordinance
Nos. 2002-07-12 and 2002-08-09) to the Town of North in
Orangeburg County, South Carolina, submitted to the Attorney
General pursuant to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C.
1973c. The Civil Rights Division received your responses to our
February 21, 2003, request for additional information through
July 18, 2003.
We have carefully considered the information your 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. Accordingly, on behalf of the
Attorney General, I am compelled to object to the annexations.
Regrettably, the town's failure to respond completely to our
February 21, 2003, written request for additional information, as
well as our followup request, has hampered our review of your
submission. The purpose of these requests is to identify the
information necessary to assist the Department in analysis of
whether a covered jurisdiction has met its burden of proof under
Section 5. You have neither provided these items of information,
which are routinely provided in submissions and should be readily
available to you, nor indicated that they are not available. In
addition, some current and former town officials have declined to
speak with us during the course of our review. As a result, we
have been forced to analyze your submission based on the
information that you did make available and the information we
were able to gather on our own.
The submitted annexations are residential and will result in
the addition of two white persons of voting age to the town. Our
investigation has revealed that part of the reason these
residents wanted to annex into town was so they could vote in
town elections. Our investigation also obtained information that
indicates that the Town of North has been racially selective in
its response to both formal and informal annexation requests.
The test for determining whether or not a jurisdiction made
racially selective annexations is whether the annexation policies
and standards applied to white areas are different than those
applied to minority areas. If the standards are not the same or
have been applied inconsistently, there is a strong likelihood
that the decision not to annex the minority area had a
discriminatory purpose. City of Pleasant Grove v. United States,
479 U.S. 462 (1987); Perkins v. Matthews, 400 U.S. 379, 388
(1971). See also Reno v. Bossier Parish School Board, 528 U.S.
320, 339-41 (2000).
The evidence gathered during our review indicates that white
petitioners have no difficulty in annexing their property to the
town. In fact, they received help and assistance from town
officials. In contrast, there is evidence suggesting that town
officials provide little, if any, information or assistance to
black petitioners and often fail to respond to their requests,
whether formal or informal, with the result that the annexation
efforts of black persons fail.
The town has made no effort to rebut this evidence nor has
it articulated any explanation for failing to provide the same
treatment to black and white persons who make formal and informal
annexation requests. The town contends it has no formal record
of annexation requests made by black persons. However, the
credible evidence that we obtained during our investigation
revealed the existence of at least one petition for annexation by
black persons in the past. The petition was submitted to the
town in the early 1990s and included a large number of black
persons seeking annexation who reside to the southeast of the
town's current boundary. Further, it appears that the granting
of this one petition would have resulted in black persons
becoming a majority of the town's population. The town has
offered no reason why this annexation petition and possibly other
requests brought by minorities would be denied or ignored.
Nor has the town provided equal access to the annexation
process for white and black persons. The evidence we have
gathered suggests that the town has not disseminated information
on the annexation process to black persons and has not
established a procedures by which black applicants can learn the
status of their annexation request. As it appears that
annexation petitions brought by minorities have been denied while
those brought by white persons have been accepted, in the absence
of clearly defined procedures, race appears to be an overriding
factor in how the town responds to annexation requests.
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);
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). The town has failed to carry its burden
of proof under Section 5 of showing that it has not engaged in a
racially selective annexation policy. Therefore, on behalf
of the Attorney General I must object to the submitted annexations.
We note that under Section 5 you have the right to seek a
declaratory judgement 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 Court is obtained, the
annexations continue to be legally unenforceable.
Clark v. Roemer, 500 U.S. 646 (1991); 28 C.F.R. 51.10.
To enable us to meet our responsibility to enforce the
Voting Rights Act, please inform us of the action the Town of
North plans to take concerning this matter. If you have any
questions, you should call Mr. Mike Pitts (202-514-8201), and
attorney in the Voting Section.
R. Alexander Acosta
Assistant Attorney General