A case against the Calhoun County Board of Commissioners seeking to have at-large voting reinstated has been dismissed.
The U.S. District Court filed the recommendation Aug. 23. The case was filed in Oct. 2010 by Jim Pruette who heads the Calhoun-Liberty Patriots organization. Pruette sought an order to show cause after commissioners failed to bring back at-large voting. He cited a referendum passed by a majority of Calhoun County voters in 1996 in favor of reinstating the at-large method.
Voting at-large means each registered voter casts a ballot for every commission district - not just the one in which they reside. Those in favor of this method have stated commissioners vote on issues affecting all citizens so voters should be able to choose all representatives. Those against at-large voting fear a minority could not be elected in an at-large system.
Single member districts were established in 1986 after a lawsuit by Carlton Smith of Blountstown who alleged a pattern of discrimination in the election system. Both the Calhoun County Commission and the School Board entered into a consent judgement in that case. The matter was never appealed.
A citizen petition drive resulted in the matter coming before voters in 1996 to bring back at-large voting. The measure passed, but the Commission never enforced the results of the election and failed to reinstate at-large voting.
Pruette asked the court to vacate the 1986 order and direct the County Commission to uphold the 1996 decision by local voters.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Gary R. Jones concluded, “Petitioner is unable to establish independent standing under Lance v. Coffman because he presents only generalized grievances, seeking to force the County Commission to follow a 1996 referendum in contravention of this Court’s prior consent decree. Petitioner is unable to establish “piggyback” standing based on an ongoing legal claim because there was no extant dispute between the original parties at the time Petitioner initiated this suit. Because Petitioner lacks standing this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the claim and it should be dismissed.”
This is wrong. The single-member system gives voters in District 4 an incredible amount of power not afforded voters in the other four districts in Calhoun County. How is this so? It’s quite simple.
The Calhoun Correctional Institution is located in District 4. The Census Bureau counts incarcerated people as residents of the prison, but people in prison can’t vote and are not residents of the surrounding community. They comes from all over the state. The practice of including prisons in local districting plans leads to serious distortions of political power in county governments. In Calhoun County, it has been estimated that as many as 48 percent of the people in District 4 are incarcerated at the Calhoun Correctional Institution.
As a result, the actual residents of District 4 are given almost twice as much political clout as people elsewhere in the county. For more information, visit the following webpages: