Some candidates for Alabama’s redrawn House district won’t find themselves on ballot

Some candidates for Alabama’s redrawn House district won’t find themselves on ballot
Published: Nov. 17, 2023 at 6:29 PM CST
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A newly redrawn congressional district in Alabama has attracted 21 candidates, but some of them will not even be able to vote for themselves.

That’s because a number of candidates – including those among the best-known in the race – live outside the 2nd Congressional District. In some cases, they live hundreds of miles away.

State Rep. Napoleon Bracy’s House district overlaps the new congressional district. But his home is in Saraland, which means he won’t find his name on the ballot in the March 5 primary. Other prominent Democrats in the 13-candidate primary field live even farther away. State Rep. Anthony Daniels lives the farthest, in Huntsville. State lawmakers Merika Coleman and Juandalynn Givan are from Jefferson County. State Rep. Jeremy Gray, of Opelika, lives close but not quite inside the district.

Some of the eight Republicans who hope to represent the new district are in the same boat. Former University of Alabama football player Wallace Gilberry is from Baldwin County. State Sen. Greg Albritton lives in Atmore, but he said if he wins, he will move to a house he owns in Conecuh County.

The Constitution permits it, but University of South Alabama political science professor Thomas Shaw said it could be a political liability.

“I would tend to think that voters would generally be more negative towards that, because how are you being represented if you don’t have somebody that understands your conditions and lives in the same environment that you do?” he said.

Robert Clopton, president of the Mobile County branch of the NAACP, said he was surprised to learn it was even legal to run in another district.

“I don’t feel that anyone outside of my district should represent me, due to the fact that they do not understand the nuances, the lay of the land of this district,” he told FOX10 News.

A federal court earlier this year redrew the 2nd District after determining that the map that the Alabama Legislature produced violated the Voting Right Act. It includes most of the city of Mobile and runs to Montgomery and east to the Georgia line.

‘A campaign issue – without a doubt’

Democratic hopeful Shomari Figures, the son of state Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, criticized his competitors who live outside the district.

“It’s a campaign issue – without a doubt,” he told FOX10 News.

Figures said unlike some of the other candidates who say they will move to the district if they win – which called the epitome of “problems that are within transactional politics” – he said he left a job with the Department of Justice in Washington to return to his hometown of Mobile in October.

“I’m lawyer. I understand, you know, the law side of it, right?” he said. “But not everything that you can legally do means you should do it. And for me, it’s about being committed. It’s about being dedicated to the people that you are asking to vote for you. And if you are in a place that you literally will not be eligible to vote for yourself, I do not believe that you should be seeking out.”

Some of the candidates who don’t live in the district said they can represent it.

Daniels said he grew up in the new 2nd District, in Bullock County, and will move to the district if he wins. What’s more, he added, his experience state House minority leader gives him a one-of-a-kind perspective.

“As the House minority leader, which is very unique position, you’re the House minority leader for the entire state of Alabama,” he said. “And you get an opportunity to work with local officials and state officials on supporting and delivering resources to their respective districts.”

Daniels said he has looked out for south Alabama dating to the Gulf oil spill.

“If you look at the record, it shows Anthony Daniels fighting against north Alabama and everyone else that were trying to take money from the BP oil spill money and distribute it throughout the state,” he said.

Part of the district, if not technically inside it

Bracy noted that the district includes much of his state House district. Prichard, where he served on the City Council prior to his election to the state House, also is in the 2nd District. He said his home was in the district in two of three versions that the court considered – but not the one that the judges opted for.

“That doesn’t change the fact that for the last 19 years, I’ve been an elected official representing people within this district,” he said. “And I’ve also represented some people over the last 13 years in Montgomery within this same district. My House district is within this district. Every public school that I’ve ever attended is within this district. I go to church within this district. My wife and I both work within this district. And we continue to represent and fight for the people in his district.”

Bracy said he would strongly consider moving to a home he still owns in Prichard if he wins.

Albritton, who is seeking the Republican nomination, is in a similar situation. He owns a house in Range, a small town in Conecuh County but moved to Escambia County in 2017. He said he will return to Range if he wins.

Albritton acknowledged that he will not be able to vote for himself but added it won’t be the first time in his political career that he has seen a ballot without is name on it. He said he was running for office in 1998 and showed up at his polling place in Evergreen to vote in the primary. He said poll workers to get the Republican ballots from the corner of the room.

“It was the wrong ballot,” he said. “It didn’t have my name on it.”

Albritton said it eventually got straightened out, and he was able to punch his name. That won’t be the case in this election. But he said it is not all that unusual, in a sense, for candidates to run in places where they do not spend a majority of their time.

“There’s a lot of federal officials who live in Washington and quote ‘come home’ for politicking,” he said.