December 3, 2010
The Honorable W. Earl Jeffcoat
P.O. Box 399
North, South Carolina 29112
Dear Mayor Jeffcoat:
This refers to your request that the Attorney General reconsider and withdraw the September 16, 2003, objection interposed under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 42 U.S.C. 1973c, to two annexations (Ordinance Nos. 2002-07-12 and 2002-08-09), adopted by the Town of North in Orangeburg County, South Carolina, and the continuation of the objection on December 29, 2003. This also refers to the annexation procedures adopted by the town in Resolution No. 09-13-04. We received your request for reconsideration and your submission on October 4, 2010; supplemental information was received on October 8, 2010.
The Attorney General’s guidelines allow for reconsideration of an objection when there has been a “substantial change in operative fact or relevant law.” Procedures for the Administration of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 28 C.F.R. 51.46(a). We have reconsidered our earlier determinations regarding the two annexations based on the information and arguments you have advanced in support of your request, along with the other information in our files and comments received from other interested persons.
Our 2003 objection was based on the failure of the town to establish that the annexation policies and standards applied to white areas were not different from those applied to minority areas. The evidence at the time indicated that white petitioners had no difficulty in annexing their property to the town, and even received assistance from town officials. Conversely, there was evidence suggesting that town officials provided little, if any, information or assistance to black petitioners and often failed to respond to their requests, whether formal or informal. At the time, the town made no effort to rebut this evidence, nor did it provide any explanation for failing to provide the same treatment to black and white persons in the annexation process. Thus, the town failed to meet its burden under Section 5 to demonstrate that its annexation policy was non-discriminatory.
cc: Records Inv. File Pub. File
Our current analysis reveals that the operative facts regarding the town’s annexation procedures that formed the basis for the Attorney General’s 2003 objection have significantly changed. For the reasons discussed below, I find that the town has implemented an annexation policy that fully addresses the concerns that formed the basis for the Attorney General’s decision to interpose an objection in 2003.
In 2004, the town adopted a resolution committing to provide assistance and information to anyone interested in being annexed to the town regardless of race, color, or membership in a language minority group, to consider all annexation petitions on a nondiscriminatory basis, and not to treat applicants differently on the basis of race or national origin. Also, the town follows the Annexation Handbook issued by the Municipal Association of South Carolina in 2006 .
Finally, we note our understanding that, in recent years, there is no evidence of racial selectivity by the town in its response to either formal or informal annexation requests, black petitioners have been successful in being annexed to the town, no black petitioners have been denied annexation, and no black individuals have been discouraged from petitioning for annexation. In sum, the contemporary operative facts support the conclusion that the annexation procedures as they currently exist in the Town of North do not violate Section 5.
Accordingly, pursuant to 28 C.F.R. 51.48(b), the objection interposed to the two annexations is hereby withdrawn. With regard to the annexation procedures adopted in Resolution No. 09-13-04, the Attorney General does not interpose any objection. However, we note that the failure of the Attorney General to object does not bar subsequent litigation to enjoin the enforcement of the changes. 28 C.F.R. 51.41.
Thomas E. Perez
Assistant Attorney General>