Annexations could prevent voting

By SAMANTHA HURST / Staff writer

Homeowners planning to annex into another city may find themselves unable to vote in municipal elections this summer.

Tracy Roberts is an attorney with the Alabama League of Municipalities. He said most people don’t realize that annexation approval doesn’t stop with a city council vote.

“Any changes in districts have to be approved by the Department of Justice,” Roberts said. “This prevents someone from being able to sway an election by bringing in a lot of people right before.”

Federal law requires annexations to be approved by the Department of Justice for redistricting. It takes at least six months to get that approval.

Roberts said this affects anyone trying to bring their property into a city’s jurisdiction.

Helena leaders stressed the fact at their last council meeting because they are currently working to annex in large amounts of property for residents living in the South Shades Crest subdivision, which is currently in Jefferson County.

Mayor Sonny Penhale said Helena considered cutting off annexations Feb. 1.

“After looking at it, we realized that we have a lot of people that want to go ahead and get in the city,” Penhale said. “We just want to make sure it is understood that it could be possible they won’t be able to vote.”

This means even if someone annexed into Helena by Feb. 1, they could still risk losing their chance to vote for city council members or the next mayor.

Once an annexation is approved, residents must still register to vote.

Annexations do not affect voting in next month’s presidential primary or national elections in November.