Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) is appealing a decision by a federal court that would require the legislature to draw a new congressional district map.
On Monday, a federal three-judge panel ruled that Alabama’s redistricting plan passed by the legislature in a 2021 special session violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and ordered the legislature to draw a new map to include two majority-minority districts.
“Yes, they did on the voting rights section 2,” State Sen. Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) said. “I think they made the right decision…I expect that there will be an appeal,” Smitherman said.
1819 News is being told that work on a second redistricting plan is on hold while the state asks the courts to overturn Monday’s decision.
1819 News asked Sen. Jim McClendon (R-Springville), who chairs the Committee on Reapportionment and State Rep. Chris Pringle (R-Mobile), about when new maps will be completed.
“We have filed a request for a stay,” McClendon said. “…Everything is on hold until we hear back. That is what we are waiting on.”
Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) told 1819 News, “We have asked the district court for a stay…If the court does not grant the stay, we will appeal to the (U.S.) Supreme Court.”
1819 News asked if the legislature should extend the regular session to address redistricting.
“Well, I don’t think we should extend it unless there is actually an agreement that we do it,” Smitherman said. “If there is an agreement that that is what we are going to do, we should just move from this special session into the next one.”
McCutcheon said that if they go to the Supreme Court, “That will take weeks and go past the Feb. 11 deadline that the court has set.”
1819 News asked Smitherman if he thought qualifying for other offices should be moved to February to allow lawmakers and other officeholders the opportunity to make a decision on whether or not to run for the new congressional districts?
“The qualifying dates for all of the other candidates should stay the same,” Smitherman said. “If there is any way that the courts can have a caveat that anyone who qualifies for a state office would not be precluded from having an opportunity to do that if that is what they would like to do; they should be at least allowed to have that opportunity.”
1819 News asked McCutcheon if the primary needs to be moved back beyond May 24.
“No, though we might have two primaries,” McCutcheon said.
Smitherman said that Democrats in the State Senate have not sued over the Senate redistricting plan. State House members however have filed a lawsuit challenging the redistricting of the State House. 1819 News asked Smitherman if he supported that lawsuit.
“In the House, I definitely support that lawsuit,” Smitherman said. “There are seven districts that were drawn and there was very little input from legislators that were affected.”
Currently, Alabama is represented in the U.S. House of Representatives by seven Congress members – six Republicans and one Democrat. Since Alabamians tend to vote along racial lines with Blacks voting overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates and Whites voting increasingly for Republicans, a map with two majority-minority districts likely would result in a five to two split between Republicans and Democrats. Moving large numbers of minority voters out of the five majority-majority districts would also make those five districts prohibitively difficult for Alabama Democrats.
The Alabama Legislature is currently in a special session to address appropriating over $700 million of the American Rescue Act funds the state has already received. That legislation, which was introduced in both the House and the Senate separately, passed both Houses on Tuesday. Those two bills will both be in committee in the second House on Wednesday.
McCutcheon said, “Thursday will be a final passage day,” for the ARPA legislation.
Wednesday will be day four of the first 2022 special session.
To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email brandon.moseley@1819News.com.