State lawmakers Monday took a look at new proposed district lines drafted by Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, as part of the third day of the Alabama Legislature's special session. Gov. Robert Bentley called for the special session last week.
Reapportionment plans for the House and Senate were approved by committees last week, but met with criticism from Democrats who called the new lines political gerrymandering. Senate and House lines drawn by Democrats were voted down in committee Friday, and a circuit judge denied a Democrat-backed request for a restraining order against the reapportionment process, according to the Associated Press.
And while the debate continues in Montgomery, some Clay County residents are concerned about Dial’s redistricting plans. Which would cut the city of Ashland in half and place part of the city in a different district than Lineville. Ashland and Lineville are the only two incorporated communities in the mostly rural county.
“Its universal opposition,” said Greg Varner, a lawyer from Ashland who unsuccessfully ran for Dial’s Senate seat in 2010. “I have yet to hear a single person say this is a good thing for Clay County.”
Varner, the Democratic nominee in 2010, lost to Dial in the general election.
The Clay County Commission voted unanimously to oppose the legislation last week, and Monday night the commission hosted a town hall-style meeting at the county courthouse in Ashland. Around 50 Clay County residents packed the second floor courtroom as Varner presented a detailed look at the maps.
Varner took personal issue with the new lines, saying that all the precincts in Clay County that voted for Varner in 2010 would now be part of District 12, which would include all of Calhoun County where Sen. Del Marsh is the sitting senator. The line dividing Ashland in two appeared to come down the street Varner lived on, he said.
“The line is in my backyard,” Varner said. “I’m not saying that figuratively; the line is my backyard.”
Varner said the problem with the new line was bigger than himself, and would leave Clay County gutted politically having to deal with multiple legislators at the state level.
But even with the support Monday night, Varner ackowledged there was very little residents could do to stop the plan.
Dial could not attend the Ashland due to the reapportionment hearing in Montgomery. By the time the meeting was getting underway at 7 p.m. in Ashland, the new Senate lines had not been voted on. In a brief telephone conversation with The Anniston Star on Monday, Dial said the debate would likely stretch into Tuesday before a vote would take place.
If Dial’s plan is passed, the western half of Clay County would become part of District 12 which includes Calhoun County. In turn District 12 would lose St. Clair County, which would join Districts 10, 11 and 17. None of the incumbents in the Senate would be affected by these changes.
Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.