Commission receives update on re-districting process

Published 2:42 pm Thursday, June 30, 2011

A committee formed to start the redistricting process for the county reported encouraging results from a recent Montgomery meeting.

The issue was brought before the county commission earlier this month, and redistricting is necessary in the county because of population shifts.

A committee composed of commission chairman Ricky McElwain, commissioner Merrill Sport, county administrator David Smyth, county engineer Benjie Sanders and Board of Education president Troy Hudson met with members of the South Central Alabama Development Commission help form a plan.

The district lines will be in place for both the county commission and the county board of education.

A redistricting proposal was made, but attorney Levi Nichols advised the commission on what their next steps should be.

“I think the first thing that needs to be done is for Commissioner Sankey to kind of feel out the people in his district and get the consensus on what they feel,” said Nichols.

Sankey represents District 5, the county’s minority district.

The proposal maintains the strength of the minority district while staying within the population restrictions required by the Department of Justice.

“I think the next step would be to have a combined public meeting with the board of education to ask for comments, questions and criticism,” Nichols said.

Under the new plan, most of the boundaries are easily-recognizable landmarks like roads, but there was discussion about the problems that could be associated with setting a boundary on a city limit, which is an imaginary line and subject to change.

“What we wanted to do and were able to do was limited by census blocks, which dictated the boundaries,” said commissioner Merrill Sport.

“I really appreciate the committee and board of education for what they have done on this matter,” said Sankey. “We’ve got a great template to work with, and it was a collective effort and I appreciate it. I think we’re really close.”

One of the final steps in the process will be presented the Department of Justice with legal descriptions of the new boundary lines.

“That is probably the biggest part of the process,” Nichols said. “Before we do that, we’ve got to make sure this will float.”