Proposed House and Senate districts divide Chilton County

Published 7:18 pm Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Proposed Alabama House of Representatives and Senate districts recently released would divide Chilton County into multiple districts.

Chilton County has been in one House and one Senate district since the lines were last drawn after the 2000 census. The districts are reapportioned every 10 years based on new census data.

Under the maps proposed by the state’s reapportionment committee, Chilton County would be in two Senate districts and three House districts.

Sen. Cam Ward, who represents Chilton County and served on the committee to redraw the lines, said the county’s population has grown too large to remain in one district.

Ward said no county wants to be split up but he believes the proposed districts are “as fair as they could be.”

Alabama House districts have approximately 40,000 residents, but Chilton County’s population has grown to about 43,000, meaning part of the county had to be moved to another House district, Ward said.

“Under the one-man, one-vote scenario … it’s hard to (keep districts proportional) if you are growing as Chilton County is,” Ward said.

Ward said he was more familiar with the Senate districts. Under the Senate map, his District 14 would keep all of Clanton, Jemison and Thorsby but lose Maplesville and Verbena.

Proposed districts for the Alabama Senate divide Chilton County into two districts. Most residents will remain in Cam Ward's 14th District.

“I will represent a vast majority of Chilton County,” Ward said.

The southern part of Chilton County will move instead to District 30, currently represented by Prattville’s Bryan Taylor. In addition to Prattville, his new district would also include all of Coosa County as well as Deatsville and Millbrook in Elmore County and Autaugaville and Billingsley in Autauga County.

The new districts for the House are more creative than those of the Senate.

While the more populated areas will stay in Kurt Wallace’s 42nd District, big bites in the northeast and western part of the county will be moved to other districts.

House District 49, now represented by April Weaver of Brierfield, will gain a sliver of Jemison and everything back toward Montevallo along Alabama 155.

Proposed House districts divide Chilton County into three districts, keeping most of the population in Kurt Wallace's 42nd District.

Most of everything west of Clanton toward the Coosa River would be moved into District 81, currently represented by Mark Tuggle of Alexander City.

Wallace said the districts are a result of growth in Shelby and Autauga counties.

“This is the result of the growth,” said Wallace. “With the overflow, it pushed the districts out some from Shelby County and up some from Autauga County.”

Wallace said one benefit of the new districts would be a large voice for Chilton County in Montgomery.

“Now, instead of having two representatives to provide resources to our county (you have five),” said Wallace. “All these are good people. It becomes a Chilton County delegation — that’s a bigger voting bloc in the Legislature for us on issues that matter to Chilton County.”

But not everyone believes the changes would be in the best interest of county residents.

Probate Judge Bobby Martin said he’s concerned people between Jemison and Montevallo and all the western side of the county will have a weaker voice in Montgomery in their new districts.

These parts of the districts are rural and will be presented by people who don’t live in Chilton County, which puts these people at a disadvantage compared to the current district lines, Martin said.

“These people aren’t really going to have the same say,” Martin said. “These folks in these little places aren’t going to have any representation.”

Martin said since he’s been probate judge, Chilton County has always been in one Senate district and not more than two House districts.

The new districts also mean some voting precincts might be split, meaning at least two different ballots at the same polling spot.

If adopted, the new districts will go into effect with the 2014 elections. The Legislature will consider the districts in a special session that could start as early as Thursday. The districts must also be approved by the U.S. Justice Department since Alabama is still a Voting Rights Act state.