The U.S. Justice Department approved the district maps for the Bibb County Board of Education on Friday. Earlier this spring, the board voted to use the old maps due to a timing issue not of its own creation. The controversy over when the maps were changed and by whom after the board voted on them is already clear. The maps were changed by state Sens. Cecil Staton and Miriam Paris and signed off on by the rest of the Bibb legislative delegation in the House. The problem arose when the final maps were certified inside the 60 day time frame required by the Justice Department. According to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the department must approve any changes to voting districts. The old maps had to be used because qualifying was in May.
Rep. Allen Peake believes the new maps should be used for the primary July 31. That’s understandable since he was one of the architects of the changes. Someone would have to file court action and ask for an injunction. That would be throwing good money after bad. It is not the school board’s fault that the maps were late getting to the Justice Department. That fault belongs to the political process that obviously became convoluted and wrapped up in other issues. If an injunction were granted it would necessitate opening up qualifying again and having another election just for school board seats. That’s a problem.
While that election could be held during the primary runoff scheduled for Aug. 21, the timing gets more complicated with each passing day. Most likely, a special election would have to be held Sept. 18. Taxpayers would have to foot the bill of thousands of dollars.
The best course of action is to float with the old maps. County commission maps are still waiting for Justice Department approval or denial. Commission maps have raised concerns because of changes made to District 4, and black lawmakers have taken it on the chin for allowing the maps to get pas them without a fight. However, we believe they thought the changes -- no matter how egregious -- would be a moot point if consolidation is approved.
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-- Charles E. Richardson, for the Editorial Board