How will Voting Rights changes affect Alabaster?

Recent changes to the Voting RIghts Act will have a large impact on Alabaster, according to the city's attorney. (Contributed)

Recent changes to the Voting Rights Act will have a large impact on Alabaster, according to the city’s attorney. (Contributed)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

A June 25 U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn portions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 will save Alabaster significant time and money in the future, according to the city’s attorney.

In its decision, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, effectively repealing a law requiring Alabama and municipalities in 16 other states to seek preclearance from the U.S. Justice Department before making voting or election-related changes.

The law also required Alabaster and other covered municipalities to seek Justice Department approval before annexing or de-annexing residents.

“The way I understand it, the ruling shifts the burden of proof from the city to somebody challenging a city’s actions,” said Alabaster City Attorney Jeff Brumlow. “The city no longer bears that burden of proof. That’s huge.”

Unlike most Shelby County municipalities, Alabaster operates under a ward system of government. Through the system, the city’s residents are divided into seven wards and each ward elects a representative to serve on the Alabaster City Council.

The mayor is the only at-large elected position in the city.

Every 10 years, the city is required to redraw its city ward lines, and previously was required to submit the new wards to the Justice Department for approval.

In 2012, Alabaster officials had to resubmit the proposed wards to the Justice Department after they had already been approved once.

“We realized there was a small piece left out of the city, and there was a small piece included on the map that wasn’t actually in the city,” Brumlow said. “We had to resubmit the map to the Justice Department. I’m hoping this decision will alleviate some of that burden.”

The Supreme Court decision also could make it easier for the city to annex in new residents. Since the Alabaster Board of Education released its future attendance policy, the city has seen an influx in its number of annexation requests, city officials said previously.

As a result of the Voting Rights changes, Alabaster will no longer be required to seek Justice Department approval before finalizing annexations into the city.