County approves new voting districts

Published 8:00 am Thursday, December 9, 2021

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The Chambers County Commission conducted a public hearing Monday to consider new Chambers County Commission district lines. The commission ultimately passed the proposed district map, which can be found on the county’s website.

After reviewing the census data, the commission determined that the reallocation of people required them to make some changes in the current districts.

During the hearing, County Attorney Skip McCoy told those in attendance that 2020 Census results show Chambers County with a population of 34,772 people — an increase of 557 people from the 2010 census, and dividing that number by the six districts means each district should have approximately 5,795 people. The legislation regulating the redistricting that once allowed for a 2% deviation has increased to 5% with the 2020 census.

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When the 2020 census came in, there were only two districts that fit within the 5% variance requirements. McCoy said District 1 was up 7.56%, District 2 was down 8.96%, District 3 was down 7.16%, District 4 was up 10.73%, District 5 was closest to perfect at .59% and District 6 was within range at 2.7%.

To get the current districts within the legislated deviation range, the commission had to shuffle census tracts around a bit. Along with having to remain within a 5% deviation, Chambers County must also maintain two minority districts.

“Here is the biggest thing that needs to be understood, and that is, you know, under the settlement in Dillard v. Crenshaw County et al, that Chambers County had to have two minority districts,” McCoy said.

Under the plan that was adopted, the commission increased the minority population in district one and district two from where they were when the census came out.

District one increased from 62.8% to 64.39% and district two increased from 53.9% to 56.95%.

Since the district lines are draws based on census tracts, the process to move lines often becomes difficult.

“The thing about it is, the way they got these Census Blocks drawn, as you make one move it throws everything off,” he said. “Because, this block of land over here, we’ll just move this over here. Well, that’s only three people – I don’t have enough people. Let’s get to the next one, well, that’s 300 people. Well, that throws you all the way out of kilter.”

Census blocks cannot be parceled out, meaning, if you move one person in a block, you must move the entire block.

Katie Walton of Lanett asked McCoy if there was a committee to oversee these district changes, to which McCoy responded, “the committee that is in charge with that, is the commission, by law.”

District one commissioner Charlie Williams asked McCoy during the meeting what the population of Black people is in Chambers County. McCoy did not have that number, but in a separate conversation with the Valley Times-News, McCoy said Census data said there are 13,512 black people in the county.

The new districts will go into effect in 2024 and will not apply to the 2022 elections.