New district lines for legislators passed, await approval by U.S. Justice Department

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 4, 2001

Staff Writer

New district lines for Alabama legislators were passed Monday and signed into law by Gov. Don Siegelman on Tuesday, but still await a final decision by the United States Justice Department.

Local legislators are pleased with the plans, which marks the first time in 100 years that the Legislature has approved a redistricting plan on the first try.

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"Overall, I’m pleased the House and Senate passed a plan, which was our duty to do," said State Rep. Alan Boothe, D-Troy. "While it doesn’t please everyone, it meets, in my opinion, the challenge set by the courts."

In past year, state legislators relied on the courts to draw the district lines.

"We attempted to do what the court challenged us to do," Boothe said. "I feel like we did what we were obligated to do. Now, the burden is on the Justice Department and the courts."

Boothe’s district will stay relatively intact. The biggest change will be a change in Ozark, where he will move out of the eastern part of the city and pick up the western part of the city.

He will also pick up Fort Rucker ­ which has been a part of District 89 in the past. Boothe will retain Skipperville and Ariton.

"I feel satisfied and pleased with my district," Boothe said.

State Sen. Wendell Mitchell, D-Luverne, had some scary moments in maintaining his district, but is pleased with the outcome.

"I am pleased I have been successful in keeping Pike County whole and, generally, keeping the same Senate district which I presently represent," Mitchell said. "I regret losing Dale County, but there weren’t enough people to get sufficient numbers for the adjacent districts."

The "final verdict," Mitchell said, will be Senate District 30 will retain all of Pike, Crenshaw and Butler Counties, one-fourth of Lowndes, about 90 percent of Autauga and 15 percent of Elmore.

"There were several plans beaten back," Mitchell said.

One would have split Troy and Brundidge, another would have put Mitchell into Montgomery County and he fought against both of those plans.

"I didn’t know what was going to happen for a while," Mitchell said, adding he is relieved with the plan signed by the governor.

With the plan approved this week, Alabama became the 10th state to approve a redistricting plan.

"Today marks a truly historic accomplishment," Siegelman said. "This task has not been accomplished in 100 years. I commend our representatives and senators for their effort to redraw our state’s legislative districts."

The Senate plan, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Enfinger, redrew the 35 districts without putting two incumbents in the same district.

It was designed to, at least, maintain the Democrats’ 24-11 margin in the Senate, as well as the eight majority black districts. With its passage, will end the Legislature’s practice of having three House districts within each Senate district.

Representatives passed a plan that redrew the 105 House districts by creating three districts with no incumbents and three districts with two incumbents apiece.

Of those incumbents, five are Republicans and one is a Democrat. Also, the House districts do not correspond with the Senate lines, but are designed to, at least, maintain the Democrats’ 68-37 margin in the House.

It includes 27 majority black districts, which is the same number currently in place.

Democrats have held majorities in both the House and Senate for about 130 year