City voting map OK’d

Published 9:38 am Friday, October 21, 2011

FRANKLIN—The federal government has approved the city’s election redistricting plan, despite complaints by opponents that it will dilute black voting strength over the next 10 years.

One opponent said Thursday that the voting map may be challenged in court.

The U.S. Department of Justice said it will not “interpose any objection” to the plan approved by the City Council on Aug. 8, said City Attorney Taylor Williams.

Federal approval means the city’s plan meets standards of the Voting Rights Act, which requires localities in states with histories of discrimination against minority voters to submit their redistricting plans for review.

Election lines are redrawn every 10 years to reflect new census numbers.

“We’re very pleased the DOJ agreed with our recommendation,” Mayor Jim Councill said. “I think we came up with a plan that’s as open, honest and fair as possible.”

Unless overturned by a court, the new ward lines will be used in next year’s city elections and again in 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2020.

Councill and Councilmen Benny Burgess and Barry Cheatham, along with Councilwoman Mary Hilliard, supported the plan, which keeps Wards 3, 4 and 5 majority-black.

Councilmen Don Blythe and Greg McLemore voted against the proposal.

Franklin minister Dr. Linwood Johnson drew his own redistricting map and presented it to the council to consider.

Johnson said his plan would have added minority voting strength in Wards 3, 4, 5 and 6. He added that the plan approved by the council failed to take into account upscale developments that have been proposed on South Street and North College Drive and that could change the racial makeup of Wards 2 and 3.

“I want to see an equal balance,” Johnson said Thursday. “I support the citizens of Franklin.”

Johnson said that even though the city’s plan has been precleared by the Department of Justice, it is still open to a legal challenge by an individual or group.

“We can’t rule that out,” he said of a possible legal challenge. “There’s a strong possibility of that.”

McLemore said the city is stuck with the decision for at least the next 10 years.

“All I can do is try to work for the people,” he said. “If newly elected officials work for the people, it won’t matter where the lines are anyway.”

Franklin Voter Registrar Jennifer Maynard said all city residents should soon get new voter cards reflecting the ward changes.