||U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
|Office of the Assistant Attorney General
||Washington, DC 20530
| ||November 2, 2001|
John B. Duggan, Esq.
Love, Thornton, Arnold & Thomason
P.O. Box 449
Greer, South Carolina 29652-0449
Dear Mr. Duggan:
This refers to the 2001 redistricting plan for the City of
Greer in Greenville and Spartanburg Counties, 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 August 20, 2001, request for additional information
through October 17, 2001. We have considered carefully the
information you have provided, as well as census data, and
comments and information from other interested parties. Based on
the information available to us, I am compelled to object to the
submitted redistricting plan on behalf of the Attorney General.
According to the 2000 Census, the City of Greer has a
population of 16,843, of whom 19.7 percent are black and 8.2
percent are Hispanic. The demographic data indicates that the
city's black population percentage has declined since the
previous decennial census. As a result, we understand that it is
no longer feasible to devise a redistricting plan, which complies
with one-person, one-vote standards, and which contains two
districts in which minority voters can elect candidates of
choice. However, as set forth below, the sole remaining majority
minority district in the proposed plan will not continue to allow
minority voters to elect candidates of their choice. As a
result, the plan is retrogressive. See, Guidance Concerning
Redistricting and Retrogression under Section 5 of the Voting
Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1973c, 66 Fed. Reg. 5411. 5413 (Jan. 18,
Proposed District 2, the majority minority district in the
proposed plan, includes much of the area previously included in
District 1. Thus, the voting patterns of former District 1 are
particularly relevant to our determination of future voting
behavior in District 2, which the city presents as the district
in which minority voters will retain the ability to elect
candidates of their choice. Accordingly, we have examined
elections for both municipal elections in Greer as well as other
elections in which voters in Districts 1 and 2 participated. Our
analysis indicates that voting in these elections in those areas
are marked by a pattern of racial polarization.
An analysis of the 1995 and 1999 election returns for
District 1 shows a significant correlation between the
demographics of the area, the race of the voters, and the race of
the candidate. In the 1995 election, Perry Dennis received 98.8
percent of his votes from Spartanburg County, which is comprised
of 95.6 percent of the total registered black voters of District
1. Conversely, Mr. Dennis received 1.16 percent of his votes
from Greenville County where black voters comprised 4.37 percent
of the total registered voters in District 1. The 1999 election
data also indicate strong racial bloc voting tendencies. Mr.
Dennis received 91.6 percent of his votes from the portion of
District 1 in Spartanburg County, which had 98.4 percent of the
district's total black registered voters. Conversely, 8.3
percent of his total votes were from the Greenville portion of
the district which had 1.6 percent of the district's total black
We also note that in the 1999 election, the candidate
supported by the minority community won election by only 14 out
of 158 votes cast. At that time, the district was approximately
59 percent black. Further, our analysis of recent election
returns demonstrates a significant disparity in the turnout rates
of white and black voters. For example, our analysis of a 1994
election showed that white voters turned out at a rate of 63
percent, whereas black voters turned out at a rate of 30 percent.
Given this pattern of electoral behavior, black voters will lose
the opportunity to elect their candidate of choice in District 2.
Accordingly, we have concluded that the city has not carried its
burden of establishing that its redistricting plan would not lead
to retrogression in the ability of minority to exercise their
In addition, the city has failed to meet its burden of
establishing an absence of a purpose to retrogress minority
voting strength in the adoption of the plan. It appears that the
city council was aware that the minority elected officials and
community were deeply concerned that at least one remaining
district be maintained in which minority voters would have a
meaningful opportunity to elect their candidates of choice. Yet,
its actions do not support any contention that it was attempting
to be responsive to these concerns.
During the redistricting process the city appears to have
been more responsive to the concerns of white individuals than to
the concerns expressed by minorities. For example, in the first
proposed plan, created by the state redistricting office, a white
incumbent was drawn out of his district and the area of Burgiss
Hills, a virtually all-white area, was drawn into the proposed
minority District 1. When white citizens raised concerns about
these changes, the city took immediate action to address these
concerns, and the resulting plan was ultimately adopted. Yet,
the city rejected alternative redistricting plans supported by
the minority community.
The city's asserted reasons for dismissing the minority-preferred plan
which included a stronger minority district appear
inconsistent with the standards applied to the plan eventually
adopted by the city. First, the city contends that its
redistricting plan was necessary in order to align certain
communities of interest. Yet, some actions taken in furtherance
of that goal appear to split them instead. For example, the
city claims that it was important to pair Greer and Victor Mills,
two non-adjacent areas that had never been in the same district
previously. In the course of making this change, the city, in
fact, split Victor Mills into proposed Districts 2 and 3, thereby
disrupting a recognized and existing community of interest.
Similarly, any claim that the minority preferred plan would
violate the principles of the Shaw v.
Reno line of cases is also
without merit. The minority district set forth in the plan
preferred by the minority community is in fact more compact and
more viable district than that under the submitted plan.
Finally, the alternative plans,rejected by the city
demonstrate that it is possible to draw a plan that meets the
city's legitimate redistricting criteria and that also includes a
district in which minority voters will continue to have the
opportunity to elect their candidates of choice. Given the
concerns about the viability of District 2 discussed above, the
presence of such alternative plans is an important factor.
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 the Procedures for the Administration of Section 5 (28 C.F.R. 51.52).
In light of the considerations discussed above, I cannot conclude that
your burden has been sustained in this instance. Therefore, on
behalf of the Attorney General, I must object to the submitted
We note that 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.
To enable us to meet our responsibility to enforce the
Voting Rights Act, please inform us of the action the City of
Greer plans to take concerning this matter. If you have any
questions, you should call Ms. Judybeth Greene (202-616-2350), an
attorney in the Voting Section. Refer to File No. 2001-1777 in
any response to this letter so that your correspondence will be
Ralph F. Boyd, Jr.
Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division