Legislators face redistricting

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 19, 2000

in special session


Staff Writer

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Legislators ended the 2001 Regular Session just over a week ago, but they will be back at the State House in a matter of days.

The state leaders are expected to begin a special session next Monday, dealing with redistricting, which is the process by which boundaries of legislative and state board of education districts are drawn to reflect population shifts found in the 2000 census.

State Rep. Alan Boothe, D-Troy, has been attending meetings with his counterparts from throughout the Wiregrass.

"We’re meeting once a week," Boothe said of the Southeast Alabama legislative delegation.

Population figures will have little impact in Pike County, but Boothe’s entire district, which also includes Dale County, will change some.

According to the ongoing discussions, Boothe will lose his portion of downtown Ozark in Dale County, but will retain Skipperville and Ariton. He expects his district will shift to include Fort Rucker.

"That works out right on the money as far as the numbers go," Boothe said of the plans for his district.

District 89 has a population of 40,139, putting him at a difference of minus 5.23 percent, meaning his district is just on the cusp of change.

But, he won’t know for sure until the Alabama Legislature approves ideas and plans from all of the state’s 67 counties and 105 House of Representatives districts.

"Which plan flies, obviously, I don’t know," Boothe said, adding the representatives in the Wiregrass are "pretty much in agreement."

The United States Constitution guarantees each person one vote and that is something the Joint Legislative Committee on Reapportionment will keep in mind as it draws district lines.

Typically, a Senate district encompasses three House districts.

The population of any legislative district should not exceed plus or minus 5 percent. In other words, each Senate district should have approximately 127,000 residents and each House district should have about 42,300 residents.

According to the Census 2000 results, State Sen. Wendell Mitchell, D-Luverne, has 125,190 living in District 30, which includes Butler, Crenshaw, Dale, Pike, Autauga, Elmore and Lowndes counties.

The ideal figure for a Senate district, said Nick Sellers, outgoing coordinator for the Permanent Joint Legislative Committee on Reapportionment, is 127,060. That translates into only a difference of 1,870 for Mitchell, putting him at minus 1.47 percent.

"I am very pleased with my present Senate district and based on the population figures, it would seem I can keep my district intact," Mitchell said.

Sellers said members of the committee "will work from the cores of the existing districts" when drawing the new lines.

"There’s a push for them to get out a plan this time," Sellers said, referring to the past in which the courts have had to draw Alabama’s district lines because the Legislature could not agree.

While the Alabama Legislature is working on its plan, Congress also has to make sure its districts are "as nearly as equal in population as practicable."

U.S. Rep. Terry Everett, a Republican, represents Autauga, Barbour, Bullock, Butler, Coffee, Conecuh, Covington, Crenshaw, Dale, Elmore, Geneva, Henry, Houston, Montgomery and Pike.

Everett does not expect any changes in his Congressional district to be dramatic, considering the "many common economic and geographical interests which have served to give it a distinct identity" for decades.

"The 2000 Census data reflect a shift in the populations of a number of Alabama’s congressional districts, including the Second District, where the number of residents has grown," Everett said. "While it is too early to say what changes in congressional district lines will be made to address these population shifts, it is likely that any alterations will not be major."

Once the Alabama Legislature puts its stamp of approval on the plans, the Department of Justice also has to do the same because of the congressional seats.