Mitchell thinks district won’t change much

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 27, 2000

Staff Writer

Pike County’s senator does not expect his district to change all that much despite the fact that it was declared unconstitutional because of racial lines.

The district represented by Sen. Wendell Mitchell, D-Luverne, was one of seven districts found to be unconstitutional by a federal court panel earlier this week, which means Senate District 30 could change before the 2002 election.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

U.S. Chief District Judge Harold Albritton and Circuit Judge Emmett Cox voted in the majority with U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson dissenting on the ruling of the districts’ unconstitutionality. Although the panel voted 2-1 to call the districts unconstitutional because of racial lines, the judges said there will be no special elections before the regularly scheduled legislation elections in 2002.

"It has no practical effect on me," Mitchell said when contacted at his Senate office Wednesday morning.

Mitchell’s district encompasses Pike, Butler, Crenshaw, Dale, Autauga, Elmore and Lowndes counties ­ a configuration that is a little complicated when viewed on a map.

He said he expects his district to change every 10 years because of the Census and with the growth of Elmore and Autauga that will be an area to be evaluated.

Mitchell said the ruling will have little overall impact on his "political position."

The decision stated race can not be a "predominant" factor when drawing legislative district lines.

According to Mitchell, who has read the 80-something-page ruling, he will have to have more minorities in his district. Also, the ruling implies that partial-county district should be eliminated of which Mitchell’s district has four ­ Autauga, Dale, Elmore and Lowndes.

Mitchell said redrawing the district lines to give him all of Lowndes County, which is represented by Democrat Hank Sanders, would give him more minority constituents and another entire county. He also added, it possible that those drawing the lines will "chop off" Dale and Elmore from his district.

Although the judges have said the current district lines are unconstitutional, they refused to block the Legislature from using the current district plan. That plan, which was developed by black political leader Joe Reed and approved by the state courts in 1993, can serve as a starting point in drawing the district lines after the 2000 Census.

In addition to Mitchell, the other legislators’ whose districts must be redrawn are Sens. Larry Dixon, R-Montgomery; Phil Poole, D-Moundville; Harri Ann Smith, R-Slocomb and Reps. Joe Carothers, D-Dothan; Tim Parker, R-Tuscaloosa and Greg Wren, R-Montgomery.

The judges dismissed challenges against the districts represented by Rep. Alan Boothe, D-Troy and Sen. Hap Myers, R-Mobile.

Boothe said he was glad the judges found his district to be constitutional. Like Mitchell, he expects the Senate district to undergo some changes before the 2002 election.

His prediction is those changes will be in Lowndes and Autauga counties.

"I think the court wanted us to pay special attention when redistricting is done," Boothe said of the ruling.

Each of the challenged districts is represented by a white legislator, but Reed has said he believes the lawsuit was a way to challenge neighboring districts represented by black lawmakers.

"I, personally, see very little impact on black-white ratios of people being elected," Mitchell said.

The lawsuit was filed by Montgomery attorney Mark Montiel, who claimed nine legislative districts in central and south Alabama were unconstitutionally designed to put blacks in some districts and whites in others. In his argument, Montiel stated the districts, which are oddly shaped, do not follow any traditional boundaries like neighborhoods, city or county lines.