Ward: Senate-approved redistricting plan could harm Shelby County

Published 1:52 pm Friday, May 27, 2011

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

A state congressional redistricting plan passed by the Alabama Senate could negatively impact Shelby County, said an Alabaster state senator.

On May 26, the state Senate passed a redistricting plan which would leave Shelby County in the 6th Congressional District, but would move Chilton County from the 6th to the 3rd District.

The plan, which passed the Senate by a vote of 19-11, differed from the recommendation previously made by the Legislature’s reapportionment committee, and included a change made at the “last minute” by Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, said state Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster.

The reapportionment committee-recommended plan would have left Chilton County in the 6th District.

“The way it happened, there was a change brought in at the last minute with little or no warning. It really hurt Chilton County,” Ward said. “I feel that someone’s selfish personal interests hurt what was a good redistricting plan.

“I understand that’s part of the process. It’s a debate,” Ward said.

A congressional district determines Alabama’s representation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Although the move would leave Shelby and Jefferson counties in the same congressional district, moving Chilton County to the 3rd District could also hurt everyone in the 6th District, Ward said.

“It doesn’t hurt Shelby County as bad,” Ward said. “But Chilton County is in the greater Birmingham metro area. There are a lot of people from Chilton County who travel into Shelby County and Birmingham to work and shop.

“When you separate a market area into two congressional districts like that, it’s a bad thing,” Ward said, noting market areas typically face the same issues, and vote accordingly.

Although the plan to move Chilton County into the 3rd District was approved by the Senate, the issue still must be voted on by the state House of Representatives. If the House approves a plan different from the one approved by the Senate, a conference meeting would be called to work out a compromise.

“I have a good feeling that when it goes to the House, it will go back to the original plan,” Ward said.

If the conference is unable to reach a compromise in the four legislative days remaining in the current session, the Legislature will be forced to hold a special session, which could cost the state as much as $500,000.

“We usually handle redistricting in a special session, but we made sure we took the time to work on that in our regular session this year,” Ward said. “It would really be a shame if we had to call a special session.”