Meridian Star

March 23, 2013

NAACP asks for qualifying extension

From staff reports
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     The president of the Meridian/Lauderdale County NAACP has asked the city of Meridian to extend the qualifying period one month for candidates interested in running for office on the Meridian City Council.

    At issue is the timing of a U.S. Department of Justice approval of redistricting of ward lines necessary after the 2010 Census.

    Pre-clearance from DOJ of any changes that affect voting is necessary in Mississippi and several other states under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

    The DOJ did not grant approval of the redistricting until March 8, the last day for candidates to qualify to run in the city council races.

    "This is an official request for a one-month extension for any interested candidate to qualify for any City Council Ward directly affected by the timing of this decision," John C. Harris, president of the Meridian Lauderdale County NAACP, wrote in a letter to Ed Skipper, the city's CFO.

    At least one candidate had to withdraw from one ward and run in a different ward. Kim Houston originally challenged Barbara Henson, the incumbent Ward Three councilwoman, but under the new lines Houston lives in Ward Four, which is currently represented by Jesse Palmer.

    According to Harris' letter, the NAACP contacted DOJ about the timing of the ruling.

    The letter states that "the DOJ's office did mention it was up to the local jurisdiction to request or grant an extension, considering the situation the citizens of Meridian were put in."

    It was not known Friday afternoon whether or not the city would consider the request.