BIRMINGHAM — U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) said on Tuesday she was “excited” for Alabama to redraw its congressional district map following a U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) case earlier this month that requires Alabama lawmakers to create a majority or near-majority black congressional district.
Sewell joined former U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon and State Sen. Merika Coleman (D-Birmingham) for a panel hosted by the Miles College Center for Economic & Social Justice on Tuesday afternoon.
State Sen. Roger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) was scheduled to attend the event but could not be there due to a committee hearing.
"I am so excited about the historic nature of this victory,” Sewell said about the case. “It ensures that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is alive and well and enforceable. It was a historic victory for not only black voters but democracy as a whole."
Currently, Sewell’s District 7, which includes most of Birmingham, Montgomery and much of West Alabama, is the only district with a majority of black voters in the state.
SCOTUS’s ruling in Allen vs. Milligan could likely provide an opportunity for Democrats to gain another member of the Alabama delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives. This follows a narrow victory for House Republicans in the 2022 midterm elections. Republicans currently only hold a ten-member majority in the House and are a minority in the Senate.
However, Sewell insisted the case affects not only the Alabama delegation but other states and local governments as the precedent could be applied to force more redistricting in favor of black voters.
“The Milligan case will have profound implications across this nation,” she said. “City council districts, state legislative districts, congressional districts all across this nation will have challenges if the dilution of the power of minority voters is there.”
“The immediate result of having two majority-minority districts is that you have two people fighting for the people, and you have two people who are doing the bidding of minority voters,” she continued later in the panel. “It’s transformational. I believe that if Alabama gets another seat, Louisiana gets another seat, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, Texas, that the first African American man Hakeem Jefferies will become speaker of the House.”
Jeffries (D-N.Y.) is the current House Minority Leader. Democrats nominated him for Speaker earlier this year, but he lost to U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
Sewell, Clemon and Coleman all compared the SCOUTS ruling to Brown vs. Board of Education. However, each said they were surprised the conservative court ruled against Alabama in the case. Clemon even took the chance to criticize the court, claiming it has the “least credibility of any Supreme Court.”
Clemon also took shots at former President Donald Trump, claiming he was a “challenge to the basic foundations in this nation” for the “first time in this nation’s history,” and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, labeling him a “despicable governor.”
The three debated the likely outcome of the redistricting process. Clemen said he believed the Alabama Legislature would not redraw the districts the way he thinks they should be redrawn, and federal judges would have to come in and redraw the map themselves. Coleman was more positive. She said she thought Republicans would be willing to work with Democrats to meet the demands of the court.
On Tuesday, Ivey announced a special session to address the redistricting will begin on July 17.
Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth appointed several senate members last week to serve on the Permanent Legislative Committee on Reapportionment. Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) appointed several members of the House.
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