Alabama RepFinder is a handy app that comes with the usual disclaimer about the possibility of incorrect data — that allows users to identify the state senator and representative for their current location or for an address and ZIP code. It even provides links to their Montgomery office contact information and biographical information.
That should help clear up some of the confusion, but there is still some uncertainty about exactly where some of the new lines are drawn with respect to homes near the borders of the new district, and Talladega County is one of the hardest hit counties in the state in that regard.
The county still has four house districts. Those districts are currently served by Reps. Ron Johnson of Sylacauga, Steve Hurst of Munford, and Barbara Boyd and Randy Wood, both of Anniston. While their districts are largely intact, new lines were drawn that change the coverage area for each one.
But the big change is that the county will have four state senators instead of one. The maps were drawn by State Sen. Gerald Dial and Rep. Jim McClendon, who were given the job of drawing the new district maps for their respective bodies.
To pass muster with the Justice Department, which had to approve the new districts, they were careful to draw the lines in ways that would not diminish support for incumbent African American office-holders. In some cases, they made it even more likely that a black candidate would be elected in those districts, by redrawing lines to increase the percentage of blacks living within them, called “packing.”
In other instances, they used “cracking” to divide areas where the Democratic Party had traditionally shown voting strength. By law the lines had to be redrawn. Redrawing them to their party’s advantage is simply part of the political process.
Talladega County’s new state senate districts are currently held by Jerry Fielding of Sylacauga, Slade Blackwell of Mountain Brook, Scott Beason of Gardendale and Del Marsh of Anniston. For decades, a single state senator has served District 11, which included all of Talladega County and Coosa County, plus portions of Elmore County and Calhoun County. Beginning next year, District 11 will cover portions of Talladega County and St. Clair County, including McClendon’s home, Springville. Coincidentally, McClendon is challenging Fielding for his seat.
Work is underway to determine in which districts each voter in the county resides, and notices are to be mailed out to each voter in a few months for clarification. The number of ballot combinations within the county will be multiplied, which will make the election process more complicated.
Getting local bills passed could also be more complicated. Typically, if all of the house and senate members agree on a local bill within their area, it sails through the legislature without a hitch. With four state senators instead of one, the process won’t be quite as simple. That could be a bad thing, if a senator is being asked to favor one part of his district over another; or it could be a good thing if a senator puts the brakes on a bad idea.
With eight potential vetoes instead of five, we see more potential for local bills to be killed and for missing out on opportunities for progress in our area.
Whatever happens, if voters want to contact their state senators or representatives to thank them or to complain, at least now there’s an app for that.