Registrars to change once again

Published 11:29 pm Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Protestors asked for change and they finally got it when Alabama State Auditor Samantha Shaw recently appointed Lola Sewell, an African American, to the Dallas County Board of Registrars.

The appointment came just one month after newly appointed members Pat Phillips, Bobby Willis and chair Frank Driskell took office on Oct. 1. Sewell will replace Phillips, who will resign on Nov. 30 due to health issues.

Phillips said the reason for her resignation is not due to the protests against the recent appointments that did not include an African American member.

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“It’s personal reasons … it (the protests) had no bearing on my decision whatsoever,” Phillips said. “I have reached the golden age of 70 and considering my health problems, I think it’s time for me to take some time off. It’s a good time for me to retire — I’m retiring by choice.”

Phillips also said she felt Sewell’s appointment was not racially motivated.

“I feel like it was not racist (and) simply done on a political action being that Republicans are in power in Montgomery at this time,” Phillips said. “It’s just the way the cookie crumbles.”

Attorney Rose Toure Sanders, who has been protesting at the Dallas County Courthouse every day since the October appointments, said the recent appointment was a “small victory.”

“We think this is the right thing to do,” Sanders said. “We’ve been protesting to get a black on the registrar. I thought it was atrocious they didn’t have a black on the registrar … we went into the office and challenged them. We felt it was an attack on voting rights in general.”

And though there’s some progress, Sanders said, she will continue protests for racial equality near the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

“We don’t intend to stop the protests,” Sanders said. “Our goal is to have proportional representation across the whole state, not just more blacks in the Dallas County board (of registrars).”

Sewell said the appointment came as a surprise.

“I was very excited,” Sewell said. “My goal is to be fair and work hard at the job. It’s a very exciting position because I get to work with many different people from all walks of life, from various counties. It allows me to meet people … I’m a people- person.”

The position, Sewell said, allows her to help others.

“It gives me the opportunity to make sure everyone has what they need, so they won’t have no problems when they go to polling places,” she said.

In a released statement from the Secretary of State Beth Chapman’s office, Chapman said the appointments were important.

“In order to continue to provide honest elections across our state, we must have registrars of good character who are able to demonstrate fair judgment,” Chapman said. “With the next presidential election just around the corner, it is important to have the new appointees ready and trained for their new responsibilities as soon as possible. I have no doubt that they will be ready and that we will be served well by the new slate of registrars.”

Representatives from the state auditor’s office were unavailable for comment.

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