By Amy Wenk

Sandy Springs Attorney Wendell Willard is defending the city’s effort to seek an exemption from the federal Voting Rights Act.

On June 2, the Fulton County Board of Commissioners voted 4 to 2 to approve a resolution that opposes the city’s application to the Department of Justice for the exemption.

“They don’t really have a basis for it,” Willard said. “The city is very inclusive of all individuals.”

Sandy Springs is seeking to be released from the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which protects minorities from voting discrimination, to make it easier to conduct its own elections.

Sandy Springs currently pays Fulton County $400,000 to run its municipal elections. Willard said studies show that the city could run its own election for 40 percent less money.

But the Voting Rights Act requires that all changes in the election process, including new poll locations or equipment, be first approved by the Department of Justice.

An exemption would simplify the election process for the city, Willard said.

“We felt it was a good thing for our city to consider,” Willard said.

The Fulton County resolution states “the Board of Commissioners finds that the importance of continued protection of the right to vote for all citizens of this country, without regard to race, color or language, vastly outweighs the limited administrative cost of seeking preclearance of voting changes.”

The county will send the resolution to the Department of Justice, but the document has no legal repercussions.

Willard said he expects to have a ruling on the exemption from the Department of Justice within the month.

“To put it bluntly, we are dismayed at the County Commission’s opposition to saving the taxpayers’ of the city and county money,” Willard said in a June 3 release.