By Brandon Moseley
The Alabama Legislative Committee on Reapportionment approved on Tuesday the proposed redistricting of Alabama’s seven congressional districts. Reapportionment and redistricting is a Constitutionally mandated process that occurs every 10 years following the most recent Census.
The Committee voted in favor of the congressional plan along party lines, 16 to six.
The Legislative Committee on Reapportionment is chaired by State Rep. Chris Pringle (R-Mobile) and State Sen. Jim McClendon (R-Springville).
McClendon was cautiously optimistic that the plans could pass next week, “If I can keep my Senators in line and if things don’t blow up downstairs (in the House),” McClendon told the 1819 News.
Chairman McClendon told the Committee, “This process has been rather unique. By law the Census is supposed to have the results to us by March. In 2011 we received it in February, six weeks early. This year we did not receive the data until Aug. 12. It did not become useful to us until Aug. 16 or 17. We had to get it in a form that our software could work with it.
“We have met with seven congressional offices, eight school board members, and every member of the House and Senate who are running again,” McClendon continued. “It took a tremendous effort to get this ready. We got the data late and we had to prepare all four data offices at the same time.”
Pringle said that every Congressional District has 717,754 people. The Second District has 717,755 people.
Pringle said that six counties are split in the new plan. Seven are split in the current districts. Lauderdale is split between districts four and five. Chilton between three and six, Jefferson between six and seven, Montgomery between seven and two, and Escambia between one and two.
Pringle explained that Congressional District Seven will be majority (54.23%) Black.
State Rep. Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa) is the Chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party.
“As a member of this committee I did not see these maps until yesterday,” England said. “There has got to be a better way to do this.’’
England asked for a racial polarization study to be performed on Congressional District Seven and the other congressional districts.
“I had to do 28 public hearings, meet with seven congressional members, eight school board members, 105 members of the House, 35 members of the Senate, and many of those people I have met with multiple times,” Pringle told England. “I did not see it myself until yesterday.”
“That makes me feel worse to be quite honestly,” England responded.
Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) said, “I think we are opening ourselves up to confusion,’’ and said he was going to introduce his own map with two majority-minority congressional districts.
“We should get two minority districts out of this,” Singleton said. “I will do it officially in the next meeting and even if it gets shot down, I will introduce it on the floor.”
McClendon agreed to do the racial polarization study as well as one on Singleton’s map.
Pringle said, “If we put any more African-Americans in the race, we were afraid that we would be sued for packing."
England said that he was only allowed to see his own district when he received the maps on Monday.
“I would like to know who drew the maps?” England asked. “Was it drawn in-house or did somebody draw it? I was not afforded the opportunity to see the whole map. I would like to know who did get to see the whole map.”
“These maps were drawn in-house by staff with our attorney who has worked in redistricting for 25 years, Dorman Walker,” Pringle said.
“It is not logical that we are asked to vote on something that we have had so little time to consider,” State Rep. Sam Jones (D-Mobile) said. “We cannot disregard transparency based on urgency.”
“What we have today is just a proposal,” Pringle said. “We have to have something to put it in a bill by 4 p.m. on Thursday.
“We have to put it in bill form. You will have time on the house floor and in committee to consider it.”
State Sen. Roger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) said, “Are you saying that in this committee we are denied the right to ask questions? I would like to vet it here. I am asking that exposure of the process be done in here so we can ask questions and get answers here.”
“Traditionally, this is how redistricting was done,” McClendon told 1819 News. “It was 10 years ago (when the Democrats were in charge).”
The Congressional District plan will be introduced as a bill on Thursday when the whole legislature meets in a special session.
McClendon praised the Committee’s staff for their efforts in getting the four maps ready in just 10 weeks’ time.
“They have literally worked day and night and over the weekend to get us these plans and I think you will see they have done an outstanding job,” he said.
Chairman Pringle said, “We met with every member of Congress or members of their staff. Mo Brooks did not meet in person and sent a staff member instead.”