County assists with redistricting of Montevallo, Vincent and Columbiana

By NICOLE LOGGINS / Staff Writer

Due to the population increase in Shelby County over the past 20 years Columbiana, Vincent and Montevallo have asked the county to assist them with redistricting.

Shelby County Department of Development Services manager Ray Hamilton compared the redistricting of the towns to the redistricting of the nine Shelby County districts.

“It is certainly liken to what Shelby County did regarding our nine Shelby County districts,” Hamilton said.

Columbiana Mayor Allan Lowe confirmed that the city requested the help of the county for redistricting.

“They came back with a proposal, and we accepted it,” Lowe said. “Columbiana has five different districts, and we have to make sure that we have roughly the same amount of people in them. We also have a minority district, and we have to work with the Department of Justice to make sure that they are properly represented.”

Eric Womack, senior planner for the Shelby County Department of Development Services, explained that the cities have grown, and, as a result, the districts have become unequal.

According to Womack, Montevallo was the first to accept the county’s redistricting assistance.

“In Montevallo’s case they had two blocks that were at the 30 percent and 20 percent line, which told us that they needed to be redistricted,” Womack said. “Their main issue was that they had grown so much to the north. The blocks going to the northwest are the ones that underwent the biggest changes.”

Womack said that the goal with redistricting is to create compact districts with equal population in each.

“Obviously that’s kind of hard to do, but if you’re within five percent of the ideal population that’s ideal,” Womack said.

“Vincent grew from 1,800 to almost 2,000. When you go to a smaller community like that and the ideal population is 398, all you have to do is switch out a few hundred people to meet that criteria as opposed to larger cities where you may have to switch out a few thousand,” Womack said.

Although the population numbers are smaller in rural areas like Vincent Womack said that sometimes that can be more challenging than dealing with more highly populated areas.

“In smaller, rural communities you have these large blocks and you try and avoid splitting those blocks,” Womack said. “It forces you to move districts around maybe in a way that you didn’t necessarily want to.”

Montevallo’s redistricting has been completed and sent to the Department of Justice for approval while Vincent and Columbiana are still in the early stages.