NAACP warns Chattanooga it could be in violation of the Voting Rights Act

NAACP warns Chattanooga it could be in violation of the Voting Rights Act

November 2nd, 2011 by Cliff Hightower in News

Joe Rowe, the NAACP's first vice president for political affairs

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

A local vice president of the NAACP told the Chattanooga City Council it could be in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by predetermining how many districts the city should have in which minorities make up the majority of residents.

"I continue to hear we are looking at three majority minority districts," Joe Rowe, first vice president of the Chattanooga NAACP, told council members. "But when I ask, 'Why not four?', I don't hear anything."

His comments came at the beginning and end of a redistricting meeting by the council's Legal and Legislative Committee.

Rowe said the council first needs to look at the number of voting blacks within the city and work from those numbers.

The council so far has been trying to preserve a traditional three districts in which minorities are the majority along with another swing district.

Blacks should make up about 65 percent of the population in the three districts, Rowe said. If council members work with those numbers, there may be "two majority minority districts, there may be four," he said.

Councilman Jack Benson said during the meeting that he was bewildered by the request and he did not know if would be possible to get a maximum number of majority minority districts.

"I don't know how you can get four," he said.

Rowe said the point is that the Voting Rights Act is followed.

Councilman Peter Murphy, chairman of the committee, said he would talk with the city attorney and come back with an opinion on what needs to be done.

After addressing the council, Rowe said three majority minority districts at 65 percent would be stronger than two at 70 percent and two at around 50 percent plus one.

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