Dawn Landholm, principal planner for the East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Council, has been handling the application process for the city. She said Friday afternoon she had the package together and planned to mail it that day.
“The Anniston redistricting submission will be sent out via UPS overnight this evening,” Landholm said.
The city was required to redistrict after the 2010 census revealed the ward populations were unequal. In order to give all residents equal representation, the wards need to have populations as close as possible to equal. Under existing ward lines, Wards 1 and 4 both have more than 6,000 residents while Wards 2 and 3 hover around 5,000 residents, meaning councilmen Herbert Palmore and Ben Little are representing fewer constituents than councilmen Jay Jenkins and Marcus Dunn.
The population of Anniston was 23,106 in 2010 making the ideal population of each ward 5,777. Under the new plan, portions of Wards 1 and 4 would be absorbed by Wards 2 and 3 to even out the populations to a more equitable 5,697; 5,820; 6,000 and 5,589. The changes also have to take into account racial balance within the wards.
All changes that affect voting have to be reviewed and approved by the Justice Department to make sure they don’t violate anyone’s civil rights. The department has 60 days to approve Anniston’s plan, which the Anniston City Council OK’d on Feb. 14; the council approved polling places April 24. In the meantime, Landholm had to gather for the Justice Department demographic data from the census, notices of public meetings about the changes, copies of the ordinances adopting the changes and copies of the prior ordinances.
“All this testimony of what we’ve done,” Hoyt said. “Basically, it’s documenting everything that was done and why and how.”
Gathering all that information took some time, he said.
The ward line changes will be felt as some voters may change polling places and as municipal politicians start their campaigns. Board of Education member Jim Klinefelter is the only incumbent left in limbo while he waits to hear whether the Justice Department approves the plan. He currently resides in and serves Ward 1. But under the new plan, his residence becomes part of Ward 3. Board President Mary Harrington represents Ward 3.
Klinefelter said he’s unsure whether he will run for re-election, but he doesn’t want to run against the president of the board.
“I’m not saying definitely that I wouldn’t run against the present person that represents Ward 3,” Klinefelter said. “But I don’t want to run against her.”
He also has the option of running as an at-large candidate against Board member Arthur Cottingham or taking the chance that the ward lines won’t be approved before the election; in that case, he would qualify to run in Ward 1 again.
City manager Don Hoyt said the ordinance changing the wards will go into effect as soon as the Justice Department notifies the city of its approval of the plan. Prequalifying begins the first week of July, just three weeks from now. Municipal election day is Aug. 28. Hoyt said if the plan is cleared between prequalification and the election, candidates whose ward changes with the new plan will either have to re-qualify or drop out of the race.
The city is requesting expedited consideration of its plan, but the request may not be granted, Hoyt and Landholm said.
“Essentially they say you can ask for it, but we can’t guarantee it,” Landholm said.
Klinefelter said he will probably wait until the last minute to make up his mind what to do.
“I’m not going to qualify in any of them until the last minute,” Klinefelter said. “I just will live by the circumstances.”
Star staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545.