DOJ preclears court, constable lines

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 17, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; The Justice Department has precleared justice court and constable district lines for Adams County, apparently ending months of speculation about those elections.

Although the county had received word that preclearance of the lines would be done as soon as possible, Bob Latham, an attorney for the Board of Supervisors, said he was somewhat surprised at the timing.

&uot;I was surprised to the extent that they (Justice) had contacted us one-and-a-half weeks ago to discuss it further. I figured that meant they were running behind&uot; in preclearing the lines, Latham said. &uot;But I’m just glad to get it over with.&uot;

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The Adams County Democratic Executive Committee filed suit last month against the Board of Supervisors to delay elections in those two races unless the Justice Department precleared the lines by a date set by the court. The lawsuit will not be withdrawn until the 60-day period for Justice Department oversight of the plan is complete, said Tom McNeely, attorney for the Democratic Committee.

As of the 2000 Census, the county’s population dropped below 35,000, and under state law counties of fewer than 35,000 people can only have two justice court judges and two constables.

A bill that would have allowed the county to keep three districts &045; Northern, Southern and Southeastern &045; died in a legislative committee earlier this year. But candidates had already qualified to run in the Southeastern District. They will now be listed on the ballot as running in the new Northern or Southern districts, depending on where they live.

Ballots have not just been ordered for the Aug. 5 primary elections. That is because the Election Commissioner’s Office has not received a final list of candidates from the Democratic Committee, Commissioner Larry Gardner said Friday. But Gardner has said representatives of the Atlanta company that prints the ballots have said they can print and ship the ballots in three days.

If the Justice Department had not approved district lines for the justice court and constable races by July 14, another hearing would have been held in Circuit Court on that date on whether to postpone an election in those races. In that event, voting machines would have been reprogrammed not to count the names of candidates in those races, and an election for the justice court judge and constable races would have been held at a later date.