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TUESDAY, DECEMBER 12, 2006
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Jones against countywide commission election

By Kristen Bishop
kbishop@decaturdaily.com 340-2443

MOULTON — Lawrence County District 1 Commissioner Mose Jones Jr. said a fellow commissioner's suggestion to change the county's election process would set the county back 20 years in the fight against discrimination.

District 3 Commissioner Bradley Cross said Monday that Lawrence County should return to its old practice of electing commissioners countywide rather than by districts.

A federal judge put a stop to the at-large voting system in 1986 after a voting discrimination lawsuit. Jones was one of the plaintiffs in the suit.

The commission formerly consisted of four district commissioners and an elected, full-time chairman. Jones said the voting system prevented minorities from being elected to office.

"The judge ruled against Lawrence County and had the county go into five districts with one majority-black district," said Jones, who represents the county's only majority-black district.

"Blacks weren't getting representation, and going back to that system would be taking the county backward."

The county also started electing commissioners by districts at that time.

Jones, who is in his sixth term, has served as commissioner since the ruling.

Cross said commissioners represent the entire county and that citizens county-wide should have a vote.

"The way things are now, if you handle it right, you can always be elected, even if you're not the right man or woman for the job," he said.

The issue came up after Jones suggested the commission move to staggered terms. All five commissioners are elected at the same time once every four years. If all commission seats are filled by new officials, there would be no experienced commissioners to guide the newcomers, said Jones.

Three seats were filled by newcomers Alma Whitlow, John Terry and Harold LouAllen in November. Cross is in his third term as commissioner.

"If Bradley and I hadn't come back, we'd have an entirely new commission," said Jones.

Commissioners agreed to discuss the issue further at the January commission meeting.

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