County Commission opts to redraw district lines
By By ROBERT BLANKENSHIP
The Escambia County Commission voted to redraw the county's district lines to match the latest census numbers during a meeting Monday.
The vote came just prior to a December 2 deadline to redraw districts. County commissions must approve new districts at least 180 days prior to the next election, which in Escambia County's case is June 11.
State law provides for commissions to redraw districts following any U.S. census.
Since Escambia is divided into five districts, each district should host approximately 20 percent of the population. That percentage is allowed to vary by five percent either way, meaning each district of Escambia County should have 7,304 to 8,072 people.
The approval of the new districts brings an end to a project that the commission has worked on for more than half a year.
Changes to the districts include the following.
District 1; Comm. David Stokes
The northern border of district 1 use to end at the northern border of the Brewton city limits. It will now extend further north and include some residents outside the city limits of Brewton. The western border of district 1 had been Pea Ridge Road. It has now been extended to Scott Road.
District 2; Comm. Todd Williamson
District 2's border had extended south to the Brewton city limit. It will no longer include those residents just north of Brewton that have become part of district 1.
District 3; Comm. Larry White
District 3 lost part of its population to district 1. The portion lost includes those residents from Pea Ridge Road to Scott Road. The district 3 border has also moved from Sam Jones Road to Dugout Lane.
District 4; Comm. Junior Hall
District 4 lost population to the south. Its southern border use to extend south to Jack Springs Road in Atmore.
District 5; Comm. Wiley Tait
District 5's nothern border use to extend to I-65. It will now extend furthe north to Jack Springs Road, up to Poarch, but not including Poarch. This is area previously part of district 4.
These new districts were approved by a unanimous vote.
The new lines will now be submitted to the Department of Justice to make sure it meets federal requirements. Part of their review will include verifying the "one man, one vote" rule, which states all residents must be placed within a district.
This rule did bring about questions for the county commission in its preparation of the new districts. The "one man, one vote" rule does not make a distinction between eligible voters and those who reside in jails and have no legal right to vote.
The current district borders do include the populations of both the Escambia County Jail and Holmon Prison. These prisons are part of White's and Hall's districts.
Stokes said including non-voting prisoners in with the general public is something that needs to be addressed by the state.
Stokes said the commission is pursuing advice on the matter and Wiley Tait added that, ultimately, it would have to come down to a decision by the courts.
Stokes added that with or without the prisons, Escambia County's new district populations would still meet required regulations.
Other items discussed by the commission include:
an update on the Parker Bridge project. County Engineer John Downing reported that bids will be opened for a project to rebuild Parker Bridge, located in the eastern portion of the county on County Road 4. The bridge crosses the Conecuh River.
This project is being paid with both federal and state monies. The engineer's office has been working to meet state and federal requirements needed before construction begins. The construction of the bridge will be a multi-million dollar project.
Bids are scheduled to be open on Feb. 22, 2002.
The commission approved to renew an annual contract with the City of Brewton for use of the animal shelter. There were no changes to the contract.