Kershaw County draws fire for at-large chairman plan

Camden Bureau


Kershaw County Council Member are trying to do what they have to, along with just enough of what they want to do.

The council has drawn a single-member plan that provides for six districts, two of them majority black. A seventh member, the chairman, would be elected at large.

All five council members currently are elected at large and all are white. U.S. District Judge Dennis Shedd on Aug. 5 said the system dilutes black voting strength and ordered a new plan drawn within 45 days.

County Council members say they’ve done what they were supposed to – take steps to ensure that council’s makeup better reflects Kershaw County’s population of 45,000, which is 28 percent black.

But members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who sued to force the new plan, say it doesn’t go far enough. They will protest it during a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. Monday in the Kershaw County Courthouse.

NAACP members want a pure single-member plan with a chairman elected from among the seven members. They argues that a black member would have no chance of being elected chairman otherwise.

Council members believe they’re on solid ground with the proposal as drafted because Shedd did not specifically rule out the at-large election of chairman.

“I just feel that the chairman should be responsible to all the citizens of Kershaw County and have focus in mind,” Council Chairman Steve Kelly said.

Council members also believe there is legal basis for the at-large election of chairman because the office was given special status in 1966 legislation that created the county’s government.

But NAACP members say they expect Shedd to reject that idea when he rules on the plan, perhaps later this month. The map also must go to the U.S. Justice Department.

“The chairman can’t be a separate issue,” William Gaither said. “They seem to be giving the chairman some power that isn’t there.”

Last month, Gaither and other NAACP members gave council members an alternate plan and said they will ask the county to reveal how much money it has spent defending the 2-year-old case.

“We think the citizens have a right to know how much of their tax money has been spent to fight this case,” Gaither said. “Their money is being used to fight against their rights.”

The terms of two incumbent council members, Hammy Moak and Jim McGuirt, expire this year. But election are on hold while the case is being resolved. It probably will be 1993 before elections are held under a new plan, and it isn’t certain if the other three incumbents, whose terms expire in 1994, all would have to run next year.

No incumbents live in the proposed minority districts or in District 4. Moak lives in District 3: Davis Green lives in District 5; and Kelly, Tom Cooper and McGuirt live in District 6.

1992.09.11 - Kershaw County draws fire for at large chairman plan
September 11, 1992 State (published as The State) Columbia, South Carolina Page 8

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