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Black leaders OK with new Hall map, not process
New districts weren't presented to the public
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Several leaders in Hall County's black community say their concerns on new county redistricting lines have been eased.

That comes after a handful of those leaders came to the Hall County Board of Commissioners meeting on Thursday to ensure the traditionally black voting block in District 4 wasn't cut up or diluted.

At the meeting, commissioners approved a map that had not been previously released to the public.

James Brooks spoke out in favor of safeguarding Hall's black vote on Thursday. After getting a look at the approved map on Friday, he agreed that was accomplished.

"It will preserve the traditional black nucleus," he said, "which is what we were concerned about."

What doesn't sit well with Brooks and others was that commissioners approved a map that was never presented to the public.

"They waited to the last minute to find an agreement," said Hall resident Emory Turner. "That's not fair to the people they represent."

Turner said he, Brooks and a loose affiliation of other black leaders were presented proposed maps by their commissioner, Ashley Bell, weeks earlier.

As of early last week, they were confident the black voting block of District 4 would remain intact. However, word spread on Wednesday that new maps were proposed — one of those would cut off an area concentrated with black voters.

Before commissioners took their vote, Brooks and Turner had to rely on assurances from commissioners rather than seeing the map for themselves.

"We're not going to take a step backwards to undo the progress that we made," said Bell, Hall's only black commissioner.

Commissioner Scott Gibbs said several proposals were still being considered up until the commissioners voted on Thursday. It was Gibbs who relented in the final compromise. The last map caused his district to expand to a land mass he said was nearly half of the county.

Chairman Tom Oliver said it was an accomplishment just to get a map passed with all commissioners in favor.

"This is politics," said Oliver, responding to complaints of negotiations running up until the meeting. "And I know a lot of people would say it's a bad word, but it's one of the best systems we have in this world."

Commissioner Billy Powell said the map passed was the "best representation" of all five of the commissioners' input.

The map approved by Hall commissioners will go to the U.S. Department of Justice, which judges the fairness of district maps in Georgia as part of the 1964 Voting Rights Act.