Redistricting state’s legislative districts draws comments from legislators

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Staff Writer

March 5, 2001 10 PM

There are just over 20 days left in the Alabama Legislature’s regular session and one of the biggest issues has yet to even be discussed.

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Redistricting is something that has to be done this year with the 2002 elections fast approaching. Granted our leaders can’t do much until the U.S. Census numbers are passed along to the state, but discussions have been limited.

Last Thursday, I traveled to Montgomery to a public hearing on congressional, legislative and state school board redistrictings for Alabama. It being the fourth one held in the state ­ and in the Capitol City ­ I was disappointed more people weren’t in attendance. That’s why I am sharing what I learned.

State Rep. Alan Boothe, D-Troy was there, along with other legislators, to hear what was said. Some, like Sen. Wendell Mitchell, D-Luverne, couldn’t attend because of committee meetings held during the special legislative session.

But, those who were present and did speak had some very valid remarks the legislators should consider.

"What you say can be very important," Nick Sellers, coordinator for the Permanent Joint Legislative Committee on Reapportionment, told those in attendance.

He said the United States Constitution guarantees each person one vote and that is something the committee will keep in mind as it draws district lines.

Since the state has seen a growth of 10.1 percent in the past 10 years, district lines will likely change.

Rep. Jack Venable, D-Tallassee, co-chairman on the committee said figures from the census should be available on March 31 or April 1. In the meantime, computer hardware is being upgraded and guidelines for the committee are being established.

"Gov. (Don) Siegelman has told the Legislature once we have a plan, he will call a special session," Venable said, adding it will probably be this summer.

"It’s imperative they’re passed as quickly as possible," Venable said of the district lines.

Sellers 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.

Congressional districts, Sellers said, are to be "as nearly as equal in population as practicable."

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.

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

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.

The next such public hearing in this area will be on March 15. That one will be at 6 p.m. at the Houston County Administration Building, Commission Chambers on the third floor, 462 North Oates Street in Dothan.

Another public hearing will be held at 6 p.m., April 12 in the Join Briefing Room of the Alabama State House, Room 807, 11 South Union Street, Montgomery.

In the event a person can’t make a public hearing, there is a way to make your concerns known.

The Office of Reapportionment computer system will be available to the public each Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. It is located in room 811 at the Alabama State House.

Concerns can also be submitted in writing to the Office of Reapportionment, Alabama State House, Room 811, 11 South Union Street, Montgomery, Alabama 36109.

Anyone needing more information can call (334) 242-7941 or go to the website at

Beth Lakey is a staff writer for The Messenger. E-mail her at or call her at 670-6316.  

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