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Fate of State’s Legislative Redistricting Plan Now in Hands of Federal Judges

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

The Alabama Legislative Black Caucus lawsuit challenging Alabama’s legislative 2012 redistricting plan will be decided by a panel of three federal judges in Montgomery. The trial ended on Tuesday.

The Alabama Political Reporter spoke with Alabama state Representative Jim McClendon (R) from Springville following the conclusion of the redistricting trial. Rep. McClendon believed that the Republican redistricting plan will be upheld by the court. Rep. McClendon said that it is still possible that the loser of the verdict could appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Rep. McClendon said that If the Court sides with the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus then the Court would either send the legislative redistricting plan back to the Joint Committee on Reapportionment with their new criteria for redistricting for the legislature to prepare a new redistricting plan or the Court could redistrict the state themselves and send their plan to the state. That decision would be up to the three judge panel.

The Legislative Black Caucus sued the State over the plan passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor, so Rep. McClendon and Senator Gerald Dial are the defendants in the case because of their role as the two Chairmen of the Joint Committee on Reapportionment. The constitution mandates that legislative redistricts be reapportioned and redrawn for both the Alabama House and Senate every ten years based on changing demographics as reported by the census.

McClendon said, “My expectation is that the court will rule in favor of our work.”

Both Houses of the Alabama Legislature passed decennial reapportionment plans in last year’s Special Session. Since the Alabama Republican Party controlled both Houses of the Alabama Legislature they passed a plan that most political observers believe favors Republicans in the 2014 legislative elections.

By increasing the number of Black voters in majority Black districts the redistricting will also make it easier for Black incumbents to be re-elected. However this caused the percentage of Blacks to drop in many majority White districts especially in majority White districts currently represented by White Democrats.

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In Alabama, Black voters are overwhelmingly Democratic voters, while the majority of White voters increasingly vote GOP. Decreasing the number of Black voters in majority White districts most political observers believe favors Republican incumbents and disadvantages White Democrats. If modern voting trends continue that would allow the Alabama Republican Party to maintain or even possibly increase their super majorities in both House of the Alabama legislature.

While the plan will likely result in the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus being able to increase their membership slightly it would also likely mean that they would be members of a Democratic minority that is increasingly Black and increasingly powerless to stop the Republican majority in the legislature. While the Alabama Democratic Party itself did not challenge the redistricting plan, the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus did sue.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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