By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Friday afternoon the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) approved both Alabama’s House and Senate Redistricting plans. The Co-Chairman of the Alabama Committee of Reapportionment Jim McClendon (R) from Springville told ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ that, “We were pleasantly surprised” by the swift DOJ approval.
Every ten years all the states have to reapportion and redistrict both Congress as well as their state legislatures. Because Alabama has a history of discriminating against the state’s Black minority, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 requires that the state must submit any redistricting plans to the U.S. Justice Department for their approval.
Chairman McClendon said, “I think it passed because we showed no retrogression in our plan.” McClendon said that retrogression is when minority voters lose representation after redistricting. The Senate plan had just as many majority minority districts as it did in in the 2002 plan passed by the Democrats and the House actually gained a majority minority district in the plan that was passed in the June special session on redistricting. McClendon said that it was obvious that they had fulfilled section 2 of the 1965 voting rights act.
Rep. McClendon said, “I did not expect it (the decision) so soon because it was November (last year) for them to approve Congress and the school board districts.” “That this was approved by the Obama justice Department is evidence that we went out of our way to be fair to everybody.”
Chairman McClendon said that this does not preclude someone from having another objection that could come up and acknowledged that the Alabama Legislative Black caucus was suing under section 5 of the 1965 Voting Right Act. McClendon said that the Democrats said they were going to wait until it got to federal court before they made a decision on whether or not to get involved.
Rep. McClendon said that they still have to deal with the law suit brought by the black caucus; but that Friday’s decision by the Justice Department should weaken anybody’s lawsuit. McClendon said that he believes that there is no merit whatsoever in the black caucus lawsuit and he expects that the federal court will eventually dismiss the case.
Rep. McClendon said that there 24 public meetings for the public to comment on the redistricting and that he and Co-Chairman Gerald Dial had held 21 meeting around the state. McClendon said there were also plenty of opportunities for the public to make comments online.
Chairman McClendon said that the decision was made by Eric Holder’s Justice Department meant a bigger sigh of relief for the members of the committee than if this decision were in the hands of a Republican Department of Justice. McClendon said that DOJ’s rapid approval showed, “We were unnecessarily concerned.”
‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ asked Chairman McClendon about the impact redistricting would have on the 2014 election result. McClendon said, “I suspect that the voters in this state will increase the trend of 2010 and will elect more Republicans but that is entirely up to the voters.”
‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ asked: Is there a danger of Alabama becoming a state with an almost entirely white Republican Party and an entirely Black Democratic party? Rep. McClendon said, “That is a baseless fear. There will always be Democrats of all races and there will always be black conservatives in the Republican Party.”
McClendon said that the Alabama Democratic Party has been hurt because “The national Democratic Party has embraced an entitlement mentality. The people of Alabama are tired of that.”
McClendon’s message to Alabama Democrats is, “You are probably in the party of the past.”