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Special Session

Congressional redistricting process begins with public hearing

Several maps were suggested during the first hearing on the process, but it is unclear what direction lawmakers are leaning.

Plaintiffs in the Milligan v. Allen case urged lawmakers to pass Plaintiff Map 1 from the case, which has already been considered by the court as a possible solution to Alabama's racially gerrymandered map.
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The special session to redraw Alabama’s Congressional district map doesn’t start until July 17, but the process has already begun with the first public hearing on the matter.

Members of the public including plaintiffs from the landmark Milligan v. Allen decision that overturned the state’s original map came forward to discuss their favored maps.

The plaintiffs in the case reinforced their support for a map they submitted to the court to prove that the state had gerrymandered the districts to strangle Black voting power.

“The map we’re presenting to this body features two opportunity districts and addresses other issues with the HB1 map, particularly in regards to cracking the voting strength of Black voters in the Black belt,” said Evan Milligan, executive director of Alabama Forward and lead plaintiff in the case. “It keeps whole 18 counties forming the core of the Black Belt either in District 7 or District 2 and addresses the cracking problem. It only splits seven counties and 10 precincts. It doesn’t touch the northern part of the state.”

Districts 2 and 7 would be majority Black at 50.55 percent and 55.33 percent, respectively.

“The SCOTUS Supreme Court ensured that African Americans are able to select or elect a person of choice when it comes to representing them in the in Congress and we want to be sure that everyone understand that these maps will certainly give people of color, African Americans the opportunity to select a person of choice,” said Benard Simelton, president of the Alabama State Conference NAACP and another plaintiff in the Milligan case.

Another map that had been proposed by Black lawmakers in 2021, led by Sen. Bobby Singleton, R-Greensboro, was also put forward during the committee meeting.

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James Blacksher, an attorney for the Singleton plaintiffs, brought a new map Tuesday that he said satisfies the Constitutional requirements on Congressional districting while solving the remedy ordered by the court.

“There have to be two opportunity districts in order to correct the Section 2 violation, but those opportunity districts must also satisfy the Constitution,” Blacksher said.

Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, noted that the Constitution affords some leeway in its requirement for zero deviation between the population of the districts if needed to satisfy Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

Joe Reed, chair of the Alabama Democratic Conference, suggested that the Legislature must pass a map with “two majority safe Black districts.”

“Anything less than that is a hollow log,” Reed said. “I’ve noticed one of the plans, one of them my friends introduced, is about 51 percent Black voting age, but forgot to count the prisoners.”

Reed expressed concern that many of these prisoners can’t vote, thereby reducing the actual voting age population of Black citizens in the districts.

The committee elected Rep. Chris Pringle, R-Mobile, and Sen. Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro to oversee the process. Pringle oversaw the process in the House in 2021 that led to the gerrymandered map.

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Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, D-Mobile, suggested one of the co-chairs should be Black or Democrat given the circumstances of the redistricting remedy, but Republicans voted down Black Democratic nominees along party lines.

The committee took no action and did not discuss the maps being presented to them. The next public hearing on the process will be held on July 13 in Room 200 of the Alabama Statehouse. 

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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