By Brandon Moseley
The Alabama House of Representatives passed the Congressional redistricting plan on Monday. Several alternative plans were proposed by both Republicans and Democrats, but at the end of the day, the Republican supermajority was able to harness enough votes to pass the plan that was prepared by the Legislative Committee on Reapportionment, despite bipartisan opposition.
House Bill 1 was sponsored by State Rep. Chris Pringle (R-Mobile) who chairs the Legislative Committee on Reapportionment along with State Sen. Jim McClendon (R-Springville). The committee is tasked with decennial reapportionment and redistricting every 10 years based on the most recent census (2020 in this instance).
Pringle said that the existing congressional districts were used as a basis for the new district maps to minimize changes and county splits, and were initially drawn without regard to race. He said race was later considered to avoid regression, which would be a violation of the Voting Rights Act.
Members were not permitted to amend the Pringle plan but could introduce substitute bills.
Several members offered substitute plans including Reps. Mike Holmes (R-Wetumpka), David Faulkner (R-Mountain Brook), and Merika Coleman (D-Midfield).
Pringle introduced a motion to table all four of the plans.
Faulkner objected because two precincts that he represents in Homewood are currently in Republican Gary Palmer’s Sixth Congressional District. Those precincts are being moved to Democrat Terri Sewell’s Seventh Congressional District in the new plan. Faulkner’s plan would have moved those two majority White Jefferson County precincts back to the Sixth Congressional District and moved four majority Black precincts in Center Point (currently in Congressional District 7, but moving to Congressional District 6 in the Pringle plan) back to Congressional District 7.
Faulkner said that many of his constituents have contacted him upset that they were being moved to Sewell’s district.
“They want to stay where they are and the people in Center Point want to stay where they are,” Faulkner said.
House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) responded to Faulkner.
“I am really disturbed that individuals will be paying that much attention," Daniels said. "She [Sewell] is on the Appropriations Committee, the most powerful committee there is in Congress.”
“They can move into District 6,” Daniels told Faulkner. “We are sure to go to court [if Faulkner’s plan were adopted].”
“We are going to court anyway, the lawsuit is already filed,” Faulkner responded.
Pringle said that Faulkner’s plan would “Change Sewell’s District from 54.22% Black to 57.88% Black. That will draw an allegation of vote packing in the district. They are going to hang a packing charge against us. In my opinion, it is a clear violation of the Voting Rights Act. That, my friend, is packing.”
Pringle introduced a motion to table the Faulkner plan. The tabling motion passed 51 to 18. The 18 no votes were all Republicans.
State Rep. Christopher John England (D-Tuscaloosa) said, “I would like to still get a racial polarization study."
Pringle said, “One has been done by a gentleman out of Georgia, but for the life of me I cannot remember his name.”
Pringle said, “Mr. Joe Reed and the Alabama Democratic Caucus played a big role in creating that district (Congressional District 7).”
England said, “The seventh congressional district has grown considerably. It has had to go down to Montgomery. It does not exist as it was 20 years ago.”
Pringle said that it “was 53,000 people off” in the 2020 Census that had to be added.
The motion to pass HB1 (the Pringle plan) passed 65 to 38.
The bill now moves to the Alabama Senate where it is expected to be considered in committee today.
The House also passed HB2 – the plan to redistrict and reapportion the Alabama House of Representatives.
While all of this was happening in the House, the Alabama Senate passed the redistricting plans for the State Board of Education and the State Senate.
Monday was the third day of the special session on redistricting.