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franklin county times

Elections get OK; NAACP ponders action

By By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
April 10, 2001
Despite U.S. Department of Justice approval for local elections to proceed as scheduled, local NAACP officials say they are still pondering a federal lawsuit to block the voting.
After being contacted by the Justice Department, officials with the Mississippi Municipal League announced Monday that Meridian and eight other cities with Mayor-Council forms of government were granted preclearance to hold elections as scheduled.
Because of the expected late release of census results, state lawmakers passed legislation in January allowing Meridian and the eight other cities to hold elections this year using 1990 data instead of waiting for more current Census 2000 results. The Mississippi Municipal League spearheaded the effort to have the legislation passed.
After seeing initial census results, Clark threatened a lawsuit if the Justice Department did not postpone the municipal elections until city-wide redistricting could take place later this year.
Preliminary Census 2000 results showed the number of Caucasians making up Meridian's total population dropped by more than 10 percent from 1990, while the city's African-American population rose by almost nine percent, creating a majority black population for the city.
With such a significant change in racial demographics, many African-Americans leaders feel at least three wards in the city could be predominantly black.
Clark says the NAACP is still in the process of deciding whether or not a lawsuit would be appropriate.
Mississippi is one of nine Southern states mandated by the 1965 Voting Rights Act to have Justice Department approval before changing election laws.
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at balexander@themeridianstar.com.