District lines delayed

Published 9:15 pm Monday, September 12, 2011

Proposed new district lines for Dallas County are not set in stone.

The new lines, which were to be approved at Monday’s Dallas County Commission meeting, will come before the board later in the month to comply with federal law.

The commission will now hold a public hearing Sept. 26 prior to the commission meeting to discuss the new lines.

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Dallas County attorney John Kelly said there are some complications based on deadlines.

“Because we were late, we ran into some problems,” he said. “The problem is, according to state law, we have to adopt the plan 180 days before the primary election. That 180 day deadline is Sept. 15. Meeting today we are well within that deadline, but that very same statute has another requirement that says you can’t adopt the plan without first placing two weeks notice in the newspaper.”

The confusion, Kelly said, stems from an original issue as to whether or not the county was required to redistrict at all.

“We had some difficulty finding the figures, but after discussions made the decision to contact Alabama State University and discuss this issue,” he said.

Commissioners met with representatives at Alabama State two at a time to discuss the lines and eventually all settled on a plan.

In order to comply with both aspects of the law, Kelly suggested preliminarily to adopt the plan so it won’t be the final option. The commission will still have the public hearing in two weeks where they can change the lines if necessary.

Dallas County Probate Judge Kim Ballard said everyone will have plenty of time to review the new lines before any action is taken.

“The map, which is the draft copy, will be posted in the courthouse,” he said. “So any of the public that wants to come and look at it and make suggestions can do that, and if the commission has suggestions and notices something is out of kilter, you will have the opportunity to make some changes before we submit the final draft to the justice department.”

As they stand, Kelly said there should be no problems.

“It does not diminish African American voting strength in any of the four districts,” he said. “In fact, it increases. It doesn’t move any elected official out of his district. We’ve looked at it and it just seems to make sense.”
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