D'Army Bailey says consolidation court battle may be fruitless

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Attorney and judges spent Wednesday carefully dissecting the issue of consolidation between Memphis and Shelby County.

On the same day a judge ruled that results in the November 2nd consolidation vote would not be certified without a court hearing, former Judge and civil rights activist D'Army Bailey held a news conference to announce the Legal Defense Fund's opinion that the consolidation court battle is fruitless.

"We've got a duty in the civil rights legal community to be candid with the public, and that's what I'm trying to do," Bailey said.

But a group of influential Memphians, including civil rights activist Maxine Smith, is moving forward with a lawsuit against the state and local election commissions, over what's called a "dual-majority vote."

"It violates not only the 14th and 15th amendments, but also the voting rights act of 1968," Smith said. "Too many people gave so much."

In a dual-majority vote, the majority of county voters must approve consolidation - separate from the majority of Memphis voters.  The plaintiffs claim that, since there are fewer people in Shelby County - the dual-majority gives county residents 2.5 votes for every one vote in Memphis.

Smith says consolidation should be treated no different than voting for a county mayor.

"There's no separate vote, and I feel that there should be no separate vote on consolidation," she said.

But Bailey, who was originally considering a lawsuit of his own, says the argument would be hard to prove, and could yield undesirable results.

"The Yeoman's effort, in our honest judgment, to make this case could lead to some precedents we wouldn't want to see at this time," he said.

Though the certification of consolidation results is on hold, the judge is still authorizing the election commission to count consolidation votes.

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