ATHENS, Ala. – A controversial redistricting process now has county commissioners optimistic for its progress in Limestone County.
The county chapter of the NAACP accused the board of commissioners of drawing racially-biased lines for its decennial map that would go into effect for the next decade’s worth of elections.
The commissioners praised the new map drawn after meeting with the NAACP Friday.
Monday, the issue of representation in Limestone County’s growing Black community headlined a fully attended commissioners’ meeting. Commission Chairman Collin Daly said he doesn’t mind the attention it raised.
“Sometimes we’ll have two or three or ten or 12, but we had a really good turnout today,” Daly said. “And I love public input. I mean, I wish more people would get involved with city and county government.”
Daly and others on the Board of Commissioners point to ongoing discussions with the county engineers to develop a redistricting map that will work for those within districts 3 and 4 for the next decade.
“We found another solution to where we can do the same thing: take another part of the Athens city population away from District 3 which would not add road miles to district 4,” District 3 Commissioner Jason Black said. “The original plan went from 20 percent to 17 percent for that (African-American) population. Now it goes from 20 percent to 21 percent, so it actually increased that population for that district, which is the predominantly Black district in Limestone County.”
However, Benard Simelton from the Alabama NAACP worries that despite progress made from Friday’s meeting with Daly, much more work is needed to attain equality in the county’s elected leadership, not just districts that are not gerrymandered.
“(Revising the map proposal) shows that they are sensitive to our concerns,” Simelton said. “But it still does not kick the can down the road far enough for us to say, ‘We’re pleased, we’re happy.’ Because we have to have a method to ensure that African-Americans can elect a person of their choice. Limestone County does not have any (Black elected leaders). And it’s time for that to change.”
Daly said the public can chime in on the new districting map in person at the commission’s next meeting on November 15.