Area representation may remain the same

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 25, 2001

Staff Writer

The numbers are in and it appears this area’s representation will stay as is.

With Census figures having been reported to the states, leaders can now get into "the guts of the process" called redistricting and reapportionment, said Nick Sellers, coordinator for the Permanent Joint Legislative Committee on Reapportionment.

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Sellers has been traveling the state conducting public hearings on the issues of redistricting/reapportionment and spoke to the Troy Exchange Club this past week about what citizens of Pike County will likely see happen.

"This is one of the most fundamental things we do in government," Sellers said of looking at the lines of representation every 10 years.

He pointed out changes in Alabama Senate and House of Representives districts and those of Congressional lines can affect every aspect of public and private life.

"While it may not seem like a sexy issue, it’s fundamental," Sellers said.

He called reapportionment/redistricting a "complicated process" considering leaders are re-dividing 435 seats of the United States House of Representatives based on each state’s proportion of the national population, which is what reapportionment is. Redistricting is what the Legislature will do.

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.

Although the state has seen a growth of 10.1 percent in the past 10 years, district lines here will likely remain virtually untouched.

Congressional districts, Sellers said, are to be "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."


Sellers said 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, Sellers said, 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.

Typically, a Senate district encompasses three House districts.

State Rep. Alan Boothe, D-Troy, has a population of 40,139 in District 89, which includes all of Pike County and a small portion of Dale County. Boothe’s numbers put him at a difference of minus 5.23 percent, meaning his district is just on the cusp of change.

"He’s going to have to pick up a little bit," Sellers said of Boothe’s district.

Boothe said he has not seen the block-by-block numbers for Dale County, but expects any change in his district will be there where Ozark is "gerrymandered" and is split among three state representatives.

"It isn’t fair to the people of Ozark," Boothe said. "That certainly needs to be examined."

Sellers said 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.

Gov. Don Siegelman has told the Legislature once a plan is in place, he will call a special session for the first couple of weeks in June. Sellers said two 12-week special sessions are possible ­ one will deal with Congressional lines and the other for legislative and State Board of Education districts.

One 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.