The Republican-controlled Alabama Legislature was poised to redraw state school board, congressional and legislative districts before the statutory deadline for reapportionment ends Wednesday, and reapportionment committee Chairman Chris Pringle said time was of the essence.
“This information has to be sent to the counties, where the registrars have a tremendous amount of work to do to make sure everybody’s assigned to the right precinct and districts,” Pringle said Tuesday. “They have to go through every single person’s voting registration card and have all that ready so we can order 4,400 separate ballots to be printed by the May primary. So you can see how we have a timeline to get this [legislation] through.”
In what is largely recognized as a partisan process, the Legislature unveiled its proposed maps when the special session began last week. Although there was opposition from the minority party, the proposals sailed through committee meetings Monday.
Locally, Baldwin County will now be represented by three members of the State Senate: Greg Albritton, Chris Elliott and Vivian Figures, whose District 33 was previously confined to Mobile County but lost some 12,500 residents between the 2010 and 2020 censuses. Meanwhile, Elliott’s District 32 in Baldwin County gained 41,690 residents while Albritton’s District 22 remained flat, but each required a geographic adjustment of the boundaries to meet the new ideal population of 143,551 for each of the state’s 35 Senate districts.
Albritton’s district now includes portions of Satsuma and Chickasaw, meaning he joins Figures, District 34 Representative Jack Williams and District 35 Representative David Sessions in representing Mobile County.
The growth in Baldwin County also fueled significant changes in local House districts.
“I think the biggest change is in Matt Simpson’s district  in Baldwin County and Shane Stringer’s district  in Mobile County,” Pringle said. “Matt now only has the Eastern Shore north of Fairhope and Shane’s district now includes some areas of Bay Minette.”
Harry Shiver’s District 64 has moved from North Baldwin County to Central Baldwin County, while North Baldwin County will be represented by Rep. Brett Easterbrook of Washington County. Meanwhile, Alan Baker’s District 64, which encompasses most of Escambia County, will now include most of East Baldwin County.
House districts were redrawn to include an ideal population of 47,850 each, plus or minus 3 percent, Pringle said, adding the committee’s only “guiding principles are to maintain the core of the districts and not pit incumbents against each other.”
Separately, Mitchell Sims, a candidate for Elliott’s District 32, claims he was intentionally “knocked out” of the campaign when the lines were redrawn. In conversation last week, Sims said his home was well within the old boundaries, so he was comfortable announcing his campaign this summer and received broad support and encouragement. But when the new boundary was unveiled last week, it was just across the street from his property.
Elliott didn’t respond to request for comment before deadline, but Pringle said the home addresses of the incumbents “are put into the computer” and therefore included in their respective districts, but unelected candidates, outgoing representatives or other addresses “are not put into the computer.”
Indeed, it appears outgoing representatives Shiver and Victor Gaston of District 100 have both been drawn out of their own districts.
U.S. Rep. Jerry Carl’s congressional District 1 appears to have returned to county boundaries. He no longer represents a portion of Clarke County, but will wholly represent Washington, Mobile, Baldwin, Monroe and Escambia counties. Together, the five counties are within the ideal population number of 717,754.
Mobile County will continue to have split representation on the state school board, however, with most schools north of the city of Mobile in District 5, while the city, South Mobile County and Baldwin County will remain in District 1. In the 2011 maps, just a small peninsula of District 5 extended into Mobile County.
Though districts have to be contiguous, District 1 School Board Member Jackie Ziegler said she was not concerned her district reaches over Mobile Bay, though she wishes school board districts were consistent with congressional districts.
But there are eight school board districts and seven congressional districts, Pringle said, and the state school board includes two majority-minority districts.
“The lines are drawn to get the population and demographic deviations correct,” he said, adding he expects a lawsuit to challenge the new maps.
“There’s always a legal challenge to reapportionment and you can thank the great state of Alabama for that,” he said. “In 1947 the Supreme Court declared redistricting non-justiciable and a political thicket into which the courts should not wade. But in 1964, the state had a constitutional amendment that all counties must remain whole and they assigned seats to each county. If you were a House member back then, you may have represented 160,000 constituents, while a Baldwin County representative had 6,000. It was so egregious under that county line principle that the Supreme Court finally stepped in and applied the 14th Amendment as equal protection — one man, one vote — which opened the way for reapportionment, redistricting lawsuits. And the 1965 Voting Rights Act paved the way for additional lawsuits.”
Still, Pringle said unless an injunction is filed, the new maps will be effective whenever Gov. Kay Ivey signs the legislation approving them. Visit this story on lagniappemobile.com for links to the new maps.
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