By Susan Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY–On Thursday, the Redistricting Committee was presented with Dial Senate Plan 2 and McClendon House Plan 2 for redistricting senate and house seats in the state of Alabama.
The 2012 plans for redistricting comes as a result of the shift in population within the state based upon the 2010 Census. The committee consists of 22 legislators (11 senators and 11 house members).
Democrat committee members expressed concerns as to how the districts were drawn.
Committee Chairman Senator Gerald Dial (R-District 13) presented his plan for the Senate. He said that a few corrections had been made to the initial plan. He said they he had mistakenly drawn the lines for Senators Marc Keahey (D-District 22) and Jerry Fielding (D-District 11) without them living in their districts but that is had been corrected. He also said that previously Elmore County had been divided between three senators but due to a population shift away from the county they will now have only two. In order to make that work he removed Senator Tom Whatley (R-District 27) was removed from the city of Tallassee.
Senator Vivian Davis-Figures (D-District 33) asked, “Is my district still 72 percent black and 20 some odd percent white. I used to have in the lower 60 percentile. Wouldn’t you call that packing?”
Dial replied, “No ma’am, I would call that taking care of a good senator and getting her re-elected so that she can come back and serve with us because she does such a good job,” said Dial. “We kept communities of interest together and that is what we did in this bill.”
Figures pointed out that District 32, under this bill, would be 87.1 percent white and 7.8 percent black. Dial said that district is in Baldwin County, predominantly a white population.
“That is just unconscionable to me. Give me some white people in Baldwin County, I can represent them. It just doesn’t seem fair to me. I think if you stay in that lower percentile you can’t make it any fairer. I think you are diluting the voice of the people when you pack the districts the way they are,” said Figures.
Ford asked for a roll call vote on every vote taken during the meeting. Dial’s redistricting bill passed with dissenting votes from Figures, Boyd, Ford and Coleman.
Committee Co-Chairman Representative Jim McClendon (R-District 50) presented the committee’s plan for House redistricting. He said there were some changes made. Representatives Barry Mask (R-District 31) and A.J. McCampbell (D-District 71) were place back into their correct district. He added that there were minor changes to District 75 and as a result to Districts 74 and 78 to connect them back to District 75.
McClendon said the changes made for McCampbell resulted in small changes to Districts 65, 68, and 72 and that minor changes in Morgan County involving 19 people affected Districts 4 and 7.
Senator Linda Coleman (D-District 20) expressed concern over the fact that the committee had not been given much time to review the new plan. She said, “I am particularly interested in Jefferson County where Rep. [Mary] Moore [D-District 59] had issues that were not corrected. Rep. Demetrius Newton’s [District 53] district was completely eliminated which means that there is a dissolution of representation in Jefferson County. I do know that there were options that were available to you because other maps have been drawn. Those maps equalize the population without eliminating a district.”
McClendon said that House District 53 was changed because of the dramatic reduction in population and a significant underpopulation of minority districts in Jefferson County. He said, “The numbers are not there. The people left. The people have moved into other areas of the state. There have been population increases. That is the whole purpose of redistricting, not only just to count the people but to find out where they are and how they are distributed. There are not as many people in Jefferson County.”
He said there has been a significant growth in population in Madison County and that district 53 remains a minority district but is now in Madison County.
As for Moore, he said was trying to work with them in a timely manner. “I assure you that it is my intent if there is a way that I can work to make some adjustments that satisfy some needs within the districts, that is what I intend to do.”
Representatives Patricia Todd (D-District 54) and Joe Hubbard (D-District 73) will also be affected.
“We have increased the number of majority/minority districts from 27 to 28,” said McClendon. He went on to say that there was not an effort to eliminate minority districts and that District 73 was moved to Shelby County for the same reason District 53 was moved to Madison.
The House and Senate will convene on Friday morning at 9:00 a.m. Dial’s bill will be assigned to the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee and McClendon’s to the House Constitutional Elections. Both committee meetings are scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m.