By Nina Brook
Kershaw County voters probably will have to wait until early next year to select County Council under a single-member district plan.
The change from at-large voting was ordered last week by U.S. District Court Judge Dennis Shedd, who gave the county until late September to draw a single-member district map.
A public hearing will be scheduled between now and then, either late this month or Sept. 1 at the council’s regular meeting. The plan also must be approved by the Justice Department before a special election can be held.
“I’d like to be a conciliatory as possible,” Council member Davis Green said Tuesday. “This thing has really been a thorn in our side.”
The NAACP sued the county two years ago, saying its at-large election method diluted black voting strength.
The school board since has settled with the group by drawing a single-member plan, and election are scheduled Aug 25.
But the county has held out, refusing to consider a plan that eliminates the at-large election of its chairman. The county’s last offer would have provided for a chairman elected at Large and six council member elected from three two-members districts. One of those districts would have been majority black.
The NAACP wants seven seats from single-member districts, two of them majority black. The chirman would be elected by the members.
Helen McFadden, the county’s attorney, acknowledge that council members will have to come up with a single-member plan. But she indicated that they may continue to press for the at-large election of a chairman.
“I do think there is a legal basis for that,” She said.
Council Chairman Steve Kelly agreed.
“This is a very strong point with us,” he said. “We feel like to take that office is to take away an office that the people have elected for years.”
So far, local NAACP members have not been invited to participate with County Council members in drawing a single-member map, although McFadden said they could bring a proposal to the public hearing.
“We would like to either meet with them or be involved in drawing up the district,” said Benjamin Goodwin, who was a plaintiff in the suit.
It is yet to be determined which incumbents could lose their seats under a new plan. The terms of Hammy Moak and Jim McGuirt were to have expired this year.