Chairman proposes voting changes

Published 1:53 am Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Buster Boyd, center, moderates a debate between Bill Godwin, left, and Greg White, right, on Saturday.

Buster Boyd, center, moderates a debate between Bill Godwin, left, and Greg White, right, on Saturday.

Candidates disagree on district vs. county-wide voting in debate

Electing county commissioner by district rather than by county-wide vote was just one of the subjects on which candidates for county commission chairman disagreed.

Current Chairman Bill Godwin and former Chairman Greg White met in a sparsely-attended debate Saturday. The debate was held at Joe’s Barista and moderated by Walter “Buster” Boyd.

See related story: Godwin, White disagree: Pay as you go, vs. financing

Currently, county commissioners must live in the districts they represent; however, each is elected by county-wide vote. Godwin said he would like to see that changed.

“In the last two elections, we’ve had a commissioner elected who did not carry the vote in his district, but carried the vote countywide,” Godwin said. “People would like to know they could elect the person in their district who will be accountable to them.”

Godwin said it might be possible, with the help of the Alabama legislature, to make that change. Prior to a recent Supreme Court ruling, such changes needed U.S. Justice Department approval.

White said there are arguments for and against district vs. countywide election of county commissioners.

“I’m personally comfortable where it is,” he said.

White said his understanding of the current system is that the minority population in Covington County was distributed in such a way that it made it impossible to draw a minority commission district. The thinking was, he said, that black voters had a greater chance of block voting a candidate county-wide.

“It has proven to be somewhat workable,” White said. “Some years ago, we had a black school board representative from the Red Level area. It is very likely he was elected by black and white votes, but it gives some credence to idea the courts had, that this would give minorities a better chance at election.”

White said when county commissioners have to run at large, it makes all of them consider their decisions with a little different perspective.