By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ has learned from our sources that the three judge panel that is hearing the legal challenges against Alabama’s legislative redistricting has set a date of Thursday May 16 for oral arguments for both sides. The panel has combined both the Newton and Alabama Black Legislative Caucus suits into one for the purpose of oral arguments. Our source says that the arguments are over gerrymandering for political purposes: a practice which the Alabama Black Legislative Caucus previously defended in 2004 litigation. According to our sources, The Alabama Black Legislative Caucus is arguing in opposition to the practice, which they had previously defended.
Both Houses of the Alabama Legislature passed decennial reapportionment plans in last year’s Special Session. Alabama State Senator Rodger Smitherman (D) from Birmingham opposed both the redistricting plans for the Alabama Senate and the Alabama House of Representatives. Sen. Smitherman told ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ last year that he feared that all African-Americans in the state will be disenfranchised as a longterm result of the new reapportionment plans.
Sen. Smitherman said, “What they have done is take African-American voters out of many of the districts that they are trying to change to be predominantly Republican districts that are Democratic districts now.” The Birmingham Democrat said, “They don’t ask you if you are Republican or Democrat they have just totally disenfranchised those voters to the point where they moved some of them to districts that are predominantly Republican and they are upset about it. Those people are totally disenfranchised. They will be at the mercy of that district.”
Sen. Smitherman said that the redistricting plan will result in Alabama no longer having a viable two-party system. Sen. Smitherman said that the reapportionment plan: “is designed to have a system that is split up where African-Americans are on one side (Democrats) and everybody else is on the other side (Republican)”….. “As a result you have segregation.”
Sen. Smitherman, and the Alabama Democrats as a group, claim that Republicans packed as many minority voters as possible into majority minority districts because most Alabama Blacks vote for Democrats, while most Alabama Whites vote for Republicans. Increasing the percentage of White voters in the 27 majority white Senate Districts they clam increases the likelihood that Republicans will win those districts, leaving Alabama with one political party dominated by Whites and one political party that is dominated by Blacks.
Sen. Smitherman said, “Now you have a situation where 27 people (Senators representing majority white districts) are going to be ignoring the other 8 (Senators representing majority minority districts). All African-Americans in the state are going to be disenfranchised and then you are going to have an acceleration of the efforts to hinder African-Americans the opportunity to vote.”
Article One, Section 2 of the United States Constitution calls for a national census every ten years. “Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.” The Census is then used for redistricting Congress, the legislature, and state school board. The actual redistricting is performed by each individual state based on the numbers in the most recent Census. In Alabama the Permanent Committee on Redistricting is assigned the responsibility of performing this Constitutional role. The Permanent Committee on Redistricting is composed of nine Senate Republicans, two Senate Democrats, seven House Republicans, and four House Democrats. The distribution between the two political parties is based on their representation in their respective houses. After the election of 2010, the Republican Party won control of both the Alabama House and Senate. The goal of the Committee is to create fair districts; but redistricting is a political process. The Joint Chairmen of the Committee on Redistricting were Sen. Gerald Dial (R) from Lineville and Representative Jim McClendon (R) from Springville.