ATHENS, Ala. – Limestone County’s NAACP chapter is calling for Limestone County Board of Commissioners to redraw its proposed four-district map that will go into effect for the next decade.
In a news conference Thursday, Alabama NAACP representative and member of its national board of directors Benard Simelton called the current proposed map racially-motivated, speculating that it was intentionally set to split Black voters in Athens’ south side.
“We don’t have any African-Americans on the Limestone County Commission,” Simelton said. “And they’re trying to prevent any chance of African-Americans from either being able to elect a candidate of their choice or get elected to the county commission.”
The Board’s new map would reduce District 3’s percentage of African Americans from 20% of the population ten years ago, to just 17%, sending the rest to District 4.
“This is not something that just occurred,” Ken Hines of the county’s NAACP chapter said during the ’emergency press conference.’ “There are maps that could have been drawn, alternatives that could have been given. There are people who could have been consulted that would have been helped in the process before a map was ever proposed to the public.”
But the county’s commission chairman Collin Daly offered a different account to why the map separated the area, citing logistics in future maintenance projects within the City of Athens, after receiving input from Limestone County Engineer Marc Massey.
“In the city limits they control the roads in that area,” Daly said. “So we just decided to change the population in the city limits of Athens. And when we had done that, of course, you just kind of say, ‘Well we’re going to take 3,000 out of one district and put it into another district’. We tried to do what was best for the county as stewards for the taxpayers’ money as far as mile per road. So that’s kind of the option that we had chosen.”
Massey said a software program contracted with the county suggested several maps based on those logistics, and the engineers submitted the most evenly-distributed one by population. It was then published online by the commissioners to be discussed in a public meeting on November 1.
Simelton also said the NAACP also wants the county to create more districts so that African-Americans can be better represented with a district commissioner.
Daly said he will meet with representatives from the county NAACP Friday morning to figure out a compromise, and welcomes public input at Monday’s meeting at 9 a.m. at the Clinton Street Courthouse Annex in Athens.