Times Daily: "Special session a possibility to consider
redistricting plan." January 6, 2002
Special session a possibility to consider redistricting plan
By Dana Beyerle
January 6, 2002
There is pressure on Gov. Don Siegelman to call the Legislature into special session just as soon as the regular session starts this week to consider congressional and state school board redistricting.
"I think the odds are 50-50,'' said Rep. Ken Guin, D-Carbon Hill, who has produced a congressional redistricting plan he believes will pass the House.
Siegelman said Saturday there's been no decision, but if House and Senate Democrats can show him they have the votes to cut off a filibuster, he may consider it.
"The House has done that but the Senate has not,'' Siegelman said. It takes 21 votes in the Senate to cut off debate and force a vote. "If they have the votes, there's nothing against them bringing it up themselves.''
The House and Senate failed to redraw districts in a special session last year partly because of opposition to plans to create a Third Congressional District that would favor a Democrat.
Guin thinks that may have changed.
"We have the votes to make the Third Congressional District a Democratic district and at the same time give each of the incumbent congressman a stronger district based upon their party preference,'' Guin said.
The Third District will be without an incumbent as Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Riley, R-Ashland, is running for governor.
State Sen. Phil Poole, D-Moundville, explained the difficulty in passing a congressional districting plan in the Senate.
Poole said he believes 11 Senate Republicans and three like-minded Democrats mean that the remaining 21 Democratic senators would have to support a move to stop a filibuster.
"It's pretty tough to draw a plan that takes 21 senators,'' Poole said.
Republicans hold five of the seven congressional seats that have to be redrawn to reflect population shifts based on the 2000 Census. "I think it's worth a shot,'' Poole added.
Sen. Curt Lee, R-Jasper, whose district includes Tuscaloosa County, said all seven congressmen and the Senate agreed to a plan last year but the House quashed the deal.
He said, however, the Legislature ought to redraw districts. "But if the Democrats come up with a plan that doesn't reflect the political make-up of the state, I would be opposed to it'' and a judge should draw districts, he said.
State Sen. George Callahan, R-Theodore, whose brother is U.S. Rep. Sonny Callahan, R-Mobile, said he believes Guin is looking at the overall picture in Congress that is controlled by Republicans.
"It's more important for national Democrats to get back in control,'' Sen. Callahan said. "I am sure Ken Guin is nowhere looking out for the citizens of Alabama and that's a quote.''
The Legislature also failed last year to redraw the eight state school board districts.
Guin said there are "a couple of plans that are passable,'' but some senators are still debating whether to create a ninth school board district in north Alabama.
He said the Legislature has until Jan. 28 to redraw school board and congressional districts and get the plans to the U.S. Justice Department voting rights section for approval.
Legislature Has Last Shot at Redistricting
By Editorial Board
December 8, 2001
Is it really that hard to fairly reapportion Alabam aís congressional districts? Surely dividing the state into seven reasonably contiguous districts roughly equal in population shouldnít be beyond the abilities of the Legislature, yet it has repeatedly failed to do so.
The Legislature has the duty to redraw congressional districts after every federal census. It faces this task only once every decade, but it still canít manage to get the job done.
This year, it was even called into special session by the governor to deal with the issue, and it couldnít do it.
Never doubt that the districts will be redrawn. As has happened time after time, a federal court panel will step in and do it if the Legislature doesnít.
The panel has set a trial date of Jan. 28. That gives the Legislature one more chance to do its job ñ if it will take the opportunity.
Next yearís regular session of the Legislature begins on Jan. 8. If ñ and it is a huge if ñ legislators could reach some agreement on a redistricting plan, they could get it passed before the court date.
History gives Alabamians little reason to expect that to happen, but there is at least the opportunity for it. The Legislature should take this chance to redeem itself and pass a responsible redistricting plan.
Black: Redistricting Court Challenge a Last-Ditch Effort
By Robert Palmer
November 30, 2001
The latest effort to undo the redistricting plan adopted earlier this year by the Legislature is nothing more than "grasping for straws," said the legislator who guided the plan to federal approval.
Rep. Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the Republican-backed court challenge of the legislative redistricting plan appears to be a last-ditch effort.
"The lawyers contesting the plan are grasping for straws," Black said, "In my opinion, they were dealt almost a death blow when the Justice Department pre-approved it.
"They did not expect us to pass the plan and did not expect (the Justice Department) to pass the plan."
An amended challenge to the plan was filed this week with the three-judge federal panel hearing the case.
The complaint alleges racial gerrymandering to boost Democratic strength. Specifically, the amended challenge claims that population deviations in House and Senate districts violate the one-person, one-vote rule, said Montgomery attorney Mark Montiel, who filed the challenge.
The Legislature's adoption this year of a redistricting plan, which is required after each census to reflect population changes, was a historic first. Lawmakers had not been able to draw up a plan meeting federal guidelines, or more often, even reach agreement.
Most of the state's redistricting has been accomplished in federal courts.
The three-judge panel required Montiel to amend the challenge providing more specifics about the complaints.
One of the complaints charged that the plan was approved without public hearings and without explanations for the population deviations.
Black takes particular exception to those claims.
"We had at least two public hearings in every congressional district in the state," he said. "Every committee member who asked for another hearing got one. And we had another full day of hearings after the bill was introduced.
"Mr. Montiel was at that one. He asked me questions about it after the hearing," Black said.
The population deviations in the districts meet federal guidelines, he said.
"Every district does not have the same number of people - it is not required to," he said. "But we met the (population) floors and ceilings in the law."
Also this week, Republican House and Senate leaders filed a friend-of-the-court brief asking the state Supreme Court to supervise all pending court challenges to the redistricting plan.
Rep. Mark Gaines, House minority leader, said in a prepared statement the plan is an attempt at "maintaining a grip on power."
Robert Palmer can be reached at [email protected] or 740-5734.
Judges Set Final Date for Redistricting Plan
November 30, 2001
Three federal judges are giving the Alabama Legislature until Jan. 28 to design new congressional districts or have the federal courts take over the job again.
In a hearing Thursday, a three-judge federal panel set a Jan. 28 trial date for three lawsuits filed over the Legislature's inaction on drawing new congressional districts based on the 2000 Census.
"All three of us urge the state government to do its duty and redistrict those districts," U.S. District Judge Harold Albritton said.
"If they do not do their duty, we will do ours and that will be to redistrict," he said.
Redistricting Suit Amended By GOP
By Associated Press
November 29, 2001
An amended challenge to new voting districts in Alabama accuses legislators of racial gerrymandering in violation of the "one-person, one-vote" rule.
The Republican-backed challenge, submitted to a three-judge panel this week, also claims the legislators didn't follow U.S. Supreme Court rulings on how much the new districts can vary in population.
"These deviations in population among the state Senate and House districts were for an unconstitutional, irrational, and discriminatory purpose ó a systematic underpopulation of black-majority districts and overpopulation of white-majority districts ...," the amended complaint says.
The suit contends the outcome would be to reduce white voting strength while boosting the strength of black voters. In political terms: Republicans lose clout; Democrats gain.
A three-judge panel earlier this month required Montgomery lawyer Mark Montiel to amend his lawsuit, providing more specifics about his allegations. Montiel's suit asks the court to redraw the districts.
An attorney for Gov. Don Siegleman has asked the judges to allow the Legislature to make any corrections the court may call for in the redistricting scheme. The judges haven't ruled on that request.
The Democratic governor is a defendant in the suit along with the Republican lieutenant governor and secretary of state, as well as election officials in 24 counties. Attorneys opposing the suit have argued that Montiel has made no showing of any intent or impermissible action by the legislature.
Montiel contends that during the June special legislative session, a redistricting plan was drawn without any public hearings "and without requiring any explanation" for deviations in population ó as much as 12,360 persons between Senate districts and 4,206 between House districts.
In one example, Montiel cited the majority black House District 68, which he calls a "bizarrely shaped" district that sprawls across five west Alabama counties ó Choctaw, Clarke, Marengo, Monroe and Conecuh.
The suit says the Legislature's creation of majority black District 68 "was predominantly motivated by race and placed a significant number of voters within or without House District 68 for racial reasons."
In doing so, the suit says, the Legislature gave priority to racial considerations and "subordinated traditional race-neutral districting principals," such as compactness and contiguity of district lines.
Siegelman signed the redistricting plan July 3 and the Justice Department decided it complies with the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Hopes Dim to Redraw District Lines; House Democrats say they have the votes to win approval of their Congressional redistricting plan, but it appears unlikely that the matter will even be included in the call for the upcoming special legislative session
By Jeff Amy
MONTGOMERY -- Though two House Democrats said they have the votes in hand to draw new congressional districts for Alabama, the subject appears unlikely to surface in the special state legislative session that will begin Dec. 4.
A dispute in the House snarled efforts this summer to redraw the lines for Alabama's seven congressmen. Now time is running out for the Legislature to act, with lawsuits already under way in three different courts.
Contention has focused on eastern Alabama's 3rd District seat, which U.S. Rep. Bob Riley, R-Ashland, is giving up to run for governor. Democrats want to redraw the district to give their candidates a better chance of winning the open seat.
Democrats in Congress said earlier this month that they're counting on picking up the 3rd District as part of a nationwide effort to regain control of the U.S. House.
"This is determining who controls the agenda in Congress and who has committee chairs," said state Rep. Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn. "This is not just a simple little state of Alabama Republican-Democrat dispute."
Republicans are willing to let the Democrats increase their strength somewhat but say they want to keep alive chances for their party to retain the seat.
Districts have to be redrawn every 10 years, coinciding with the Census, to equalize population. Line-drawers must get as close as possible to the ideal size of 635,300 people per district.
Republicans, Senate Democrats and some conservative House Democrats favored a plan passed unanimously by the state Senate that would do that. But House Majority Leader Ken Guin, D-Carbon Hill, and more than 50 House members wanted a plan that would guarantee the seat for the Democrats, saying the Senate plan was too Republican.
"Guin's not willing to take a 3rd Congressional District that's winnable by either party," said Rep. Chris Pringle, R-Mobile.
Guin could never achieve the three-fifths vote in the House to cut off debate, so his efforts failed. Now Guin and Rep. Gerald Willis, D-Nances Creek, say a new headcount in the House shows they have the votes to end debate and pass a plan making the 3rd's voters 60 percent Democratic.
Willis also said Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, has pledged to Willis and Guin that a Senate headcount shows enough votes to pass the latest version of Guin's plan. Sanders could not be reached for comment before the Thanksgiving break.
Republicans said they won't believe it until they see the vote.
"We have heard that rumor so many times," said Jo Bonner, chief of staff for U.S. Rep Sonny Callahan, R-Mobile. Bonner has led redistricting negotiations for the state's Republican congressmen.
Despite the claims by his party members, state House Speaker Seth Hammett, D-Andalusia, wrote in a memo Nov. 8 that redistricting for both Congress and the state's eight state school board seats would be left out of the governor's call for the special session. Carrie Kurlander, Gov. Don Siegelman's spokeswoman, said Wednesday that position is not likely to change.
"I know the governor has said this session will be focused on education funding, and it's important there not be any other distractions," Kurlander said.
Any item not included on the governor's agenda would have to be backed by two-thirds of each house to pass, a vote tally that Willis said is out of reach. Republicans make up more than one-third of House members.
Willis and Guin said that if re districting doesn't come up in the special session, lawmakers could try to force it through at the beginning of the regular session in January.
But that could be a tight squeeze. Qualifying for state and federal offices ends April 5, and the U.S. Justice Department takes up to 60 days to preclear voting district changes in Alabama to make sure those changes don't discriminate against blacks.
Bonner said the delays could "very conceivably invite a special election" if a challenger to districts drawn at the last minute wins an injunction from a judge.
Hubbard said that if redistricting comes up in the special session or early in the regular session, House Republicans have told Hammett they will attempt to torpedo all other business in the House
"I think they know if they try to run over us, we'll have no choice but to melt everything down," Hubbard said.
Willis said he had pledges from 57 Democrats and two Republicans to vote to cut off debate. Under House rules, 60 percent of those present have to vote to end debate. Willis' total wouldn't reach the 63 votes needed in the House to end debate if all 105 members vote, but he said an additional 10 Democrats and three Republicans had pledged not to vote at all.
Willis said Guin's plan would move the 3rd District into Montgomery County to pick up 77,000 people, of whom 61,000 are black. Black voters in Alabama are usually the most loyal Democrats, but district drawers are supposed to avoid drawing lines based solely on race.
Willis said the plan's 1st District would include all of Mobile, Baldwin, Washington, Escambia and Monroe counties. He said it would include a central sliver of Clarke County, running up to Thomasville.
The remainder of Clarke County, plus all of Choctaw, Marengo and Wilcox, would be in the 7th District of U.S. Rep. Earl Hilliard, D-Birmingham. State Rep. Thomas Jackson, D-Thomasville, and other Thomasville officials have strived to avoid placement in Hilliard's district.
In court action Tuesday, a three-judge federal panel in Mobile ruled 2-1 that a suit on congressional redistricting should be consolidated with a similar lawsuit in Montgomery federal court.
The Mobile suit was filed in August by Les Barnett, Terry Lathan and Percy Johnson, with the aid of national GOP figures. A suit the men filed at the same time against state legislative districts was dismissed Nov. 7.
A Montgomery judge plans to expedite lawsuits over new legislative districts so potential candidates have enough time to decide whether they'll run for office.
Circuit Judge Johnny Hardwick held a hearing Monday with attorneys who have filed two lawsuits.
One filed by Democratic attorneys asks the judge to declare that the Legislature's new districts are legally designed for use in next year's elections. The other lawsuit filed by a Republican attorney contends the Senate districts are unconstitutionally designed and must be redrawn.
Candidates must decide to run by the April 5 qualifying deadline.
Hardwick set a swift schedule for filing motions and taking depositions so that one or both of the cases could go to trial Jan. 11.
"There are people out there who need to make decisions if they are going to run for office," Hardwick said.
April 5 is the last day that Democratic and Republican candidates can sign up with their parties to run in the primary election June 4.
Hardwick, a Democrat appointed by Gov. Don Siegelman, has all the lawsuits that have been filed in state court over legislative redistricting. There is also litigation pending in federal court, but no trial date has been set.
The Legislature is required to draw new districts after each census. The lawmakers designed 140 new House and Senate districts in a July special session. The districts, which have been approved by the U.S. Justice Department, are designed to maintain the control Democrats have held in the Legislature since Reconstruction.
Mark Montiel's suit maintains that the state constitution requires Senate districts to have equal numbers of people, and the Senate districts approved by the Legislature vary by as many as 12,000 people.
During the hearing Monday, the Republican attorney objected to some of the judge's efforts to speed up the case and got the judge to delay the trial date four days beyond what Hardwick originally planned.
Whatley said the Democratic suit is an effort to bring redistricting to an end by getting a judge to say the districts are legal. "It's the Republicans trying to delay this and stretch things out," he said.
Besides the court suits over legislative redistricting, federal suits are pending over the Legislature's failure to draw new districts for the State Board of Education and Alabama's U.S. House delegation.
The exclamations of pride heard this week when the U.S. Justice Department approved the House portion of the redistricting plan for the Alabama Legislature forcefully underscore the many failures of the past.
What is being applauded by legislators is really nothing more than the fulfilling of their obligation, the mere doing of what they are supposed to do. That it is hailed as "historic" says much about the dismal performances of the Legislature's past.
The Legislature has the responsibility to redraw the district lines for the House and Senate after each decade's census. Until now, it had never done so in a constitutionally acceptable manner. On several occasions, it didn't do so at all.
Federal courts were left with the task the Legislature shirked. That wasn't popular, but it was directly attributable to the dereliction of the Legislature, not the activism of the courts.
The redistricting plans still face some legal challenges, but their approval by the Justice Department is a critical hurdle that has been cleared. That wouldn't be seen as such a notable accomplishment in a state with a better record in this regard, but it is touted as a big deal for Alabama.
Alabamians should be glad the job got done, but they shouldn't lose sight of the fact that it was the undeniable duty of the Legislature to do it.
Black political leaders met with U.S. Justice Department officials Tuesday to ask the federal government to toss out a map redrawing state House districts, because it hurts black voters.
The delegation was led by Joe Reed and included Rep. James Buskey, D-Mobile, and a number of people from southeast Alabama.
Reed, chairman of the Alabama Democratic Conference, a black political organization, sent a letter to the Justice Department last Friday to protest the plan. Though he has other objections, he's mainly concerned with House District 85, which includes part of Dothan and all of Henry County to the north of that city.
The new map reduced the percentage of black population in District 85, now held by Rep. Locy Baker, D-Abbeville, who is black. Baker, who voted for the plan, has said he doesn't see eye-to-eye with Reed politically. Baker said Reed's real aim is to hurt him by forcing him away from his base of support, not to help black voters in general.
"Whereas the district is majority black under the benchmark plan, the new plan makes it majority-white and fragments the existing community of voters," wrote Sam Heldman, a lawyer for Reed. "This is, of course, one of the classic examples of dilution and retrogression."
Political districts must be redrawn every 10 years following the Census in order to equalize populations. House and Senate plans were approved in July during a special legislative session.
The Justice Department, under civil rights laws, must examine new political districts in any jurisdiction with a history of discriminating against minority voters. The federal government is supposed to make sure those areas don't slide back into discrimination, an action called retrogression.
A Justice Department decision on the state Senate districts is due Monday. The decision on the House districts is due Nov. 9. Officials could delay decisions by asking the state for more information, though.
People unhappy with the new maps also can sue in court, where they can challenge on broader grounds. Six lawsuits already have been filed concerning the Alabama redistricting pro cess, although some of those deal only with new congressional districts.
Attached to Reed's letter is a list of 27 people said to be District 85 residents who joined Reed in the complaint. Among them is a recently elected black member of the Dothan City School Board, a former Dothan planning commissioner, a coordinator with a local black political group and current and former officials of the local NAACP branch.
Buskey and Rep. Yvonne Kennedy, D-Mobile, also have filed written protests with the Justice Department. Both are close allies of Reed and the ADC.
State officials claim that lower black population in Baker's district is made up for by a black majority in District 84, formerly a white majority district now held by Rep. Billy Beasley, D-Clayton.
But Reed contends that area is not a true black majority district because without 2,300 black inmates at three state prisons in the area, the district still would be majority white. Reed says that there's actually a white majority among people who can vote.
Dan Nelson, a Justice Department spokesman, said the Tuesday meeting was routine. Federal officials met with Democratic legislative leaders who back the proposed House and Senate plans by video conference on Sept. 18. They met Sept. 29 with Birmingham lawyer Donald Watkins, two House Republicans and Rep. William Parker, D-Birmingham, who have objections similar to Reed's.
Republicans also have complained about population imbalances in districts, although Democrats and state officials say they are within the allowed variance of 5 percent greater or lesser than the ideal populations.
"You're diluting the vote of those people in the overpopulated districts," said House Minority Leader Mark Gaines, R-Homewood, one of the lawmakers who accompanied Watkins.
It's unclear if anyone else has filed an objection. To protect aggrieved voters against retaliation, the Justice Department is not allowed to release the names of complainants.
One redistricting expert said he wasn't familiar with Reed's objections, but predicted the Justice Department would proceed in a "gingerly" fashion.
"If Joe Reed is here to make a case, it's going to have to be a strong case," said David Bositis, senior political analyst at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a Washington, D.C., think tank that deals with black issues.
Only two things are certain about redistricting in Alabama: Lawsuits are piling up and attorneys stand to make a lot of money.
So far, six lawsuits have been filed ó three in Montgomery and three in Mobile.
The Legislature has hired attorneys. The governor has hired an attorney, too. And the lawyers who filed the suits hope to get their expenses paid by the state.
After every census, the Legislature is supposed to use the new population figures to draw equal-sized districts for the Legislature, the stateís U.S. House delegation, and the State Board of Education. The Legislature succeeded in drawing its new House and Senate districts in July, but couldnít agree last month on congressional or school board districts.
Congressional negotiations broke down over whether to try to make the districts of some Republican incumbents more Democratic, and school board negotiations dissolved over how to draw the districts to make sure blacks are likely to win one-fourth of the seats.
State Sen. Jeff Enfinger, a freshman who devoted countless hours of his own time to trying to get legislators to agree, said he learned an important lesson.
ìThere are many people who have motivation for it not to work out because they or their friends stand to make money,î Enfinger, D-Huntsville, said.
Gov. Don Siegelmanís legal adviser, Ted Hosp, said Siegelman would like the Legislature to try again and fulfill its legal duty to redistrict, but he said the governor is awaiting guidance from legislative leaders on whether another special session would be worthwhile.
Enfinger said there is no need for another special session ìunless there is some changeî and he doesnít believe there has been any yet.
The issue canít wait until the Legislatureís regular session in January because there wouldnít be enough time to get the districts approved by the U.S. Justice Department in time for next yearís elections.
Siegelmanís redistricting attorney, Larry Menefee, said it would be cheaper for the Legislature to try again. Having the courts design new districts ìwould cost the state a good bit more money in terms of attorneysí fees,î he said.
Thatís because attorneys who sue the state and win get paid by the state.
Sometimes they can win without changing anything.
Of the six suits filed so far, the first one scheduled for trial is set for Nov. 19 in Montgomery County Circuit Court. The suit, filed by members of a Birmingham law firm active in Democratic politics, asks the judge to ìreview and confirmî the Legislatureís new districts ìif such confirmation is appropriate.î
It also asks the judge to order the state to pay an unspecified amount to the attorneys who filed it: Joe Whatley and Richard Rouco.
Alabama lawmakers ended a special legislative session Wednesday without agreeing on new plans for congressional and school board districts
The House and Senate never got together on how to adjust congressional districts to reflect results of the 2000 Census.
The Senate gave early bipartisan support to a plan endorsed by the state's seven congressmen. House members repeatedly split over plans that would have increased Democratic voting strength in the 3rd District, which U.S. Rep. Bob Riley, R-Ashland, is vacating to run for governor.
The House approved a plan to redraw the eight state Board of Education districts. Thursday, the Senate sent back a plan to increase the number of districts to nine by creating a new district in central north Alabama.
"It's not going to work. This is like playing poker and deciding you want a 53-card deck instead of 52," said Rep. Chris Pringle, R-Mobile.
House members refused to go along and approved a conference committee to work on the differences, but in a move that House members called unprecedented, the Senate refused to appoint its half of the committee and sent the bill back to the House.
Frustrated representatives adjourned for the session and the Senate soon followed their example.
House Speaker Seth Hammett, D-Andalusia, said although many items in the lengthy call for the session passed, including appropriation bills, he was disappointed that congressional and school board redistricting failed.
Because the Legislature failed to redraw the districts, the federal courts will.
"This puts it into the courts. There will be a fair hearing and the courts will stick to the rules. It is probably good for the citizens that it happened this way," said Sen. George Callahan, R-Mobile.
It appeared Wednesday that the House will fail to
draw new congressional district lines in the special legislative session
unless a major logjam about the bill is broken.
Since the Senate didn't leave the journal open
Wednesday, the only way a House bill that was approved by Wednesday can
pass is if the session lasts the maximum 12 working days allowed by law.
Thursday will be the 10th legislative day.
New districts face a duel in the House
By Mike Sherman
September 6, 2001
The stage is set in the Alabama House for a showdown as early as today between a congressional redistricting plan passed 30-1 by the Senate and a substitute plan adopted by a House committee to beef up Democratic chances in next year's elections.
The House Elections Committee rejected pleas by Senate leaders to adopt the Senate-passed plan which incumbent congressmen have said they can support.
"We needed a solid Democratic plan before the House. This is it," said Rep. Ken Guin, D-Carbon Hill, chairman of the committee, after the committee voted 7-6 to send the plan to the House for consideration.
The plans probably will be debated today. Furious Republicans tried to slow the
process late Wednesday.
"We are going to hold up the process until the consensus bill is treated fairly," said Rep. Perry Hooper, R- Montgomery.
"The governor needs to take a look at what is going on. This could kill his ethics and accountability bills and the lieutenant governor's, too," he said.
"Guin flagrantly attacks existing congressional district lines for the purpose of creating majority-Democratic House congressional districts," said Rep. Greg Wren, R-Montgomery.
Others liked the Guin plan.
"This is much closer to what I had in mind. This is a more equitable distribution," Rep. Thad McClammy, D-Montgomery, said.
Guin's plan makes the 3rd District more favorable for a Democrat and stretches the 1st District from Mobile County to Tuscaloosa County, through Choctaw, Marengo, Sumter, Greene and Hale counties.
Lawmakers are supposed to redraw congressional district lines following each census. Alabama lawmakers have not done that without court intervention in 40 years, according to state Sen. Jeff Enfinger, D-Huntsville, who fashioned the Senate-passed plan.
That plan also created a Democratic-leaning 3rd District in east Alabama where U.S. Rep. Bob Riley is leaving Congress to run for the Republican nomination for governor.
The tri-county area now has Autauga and Elmore counties and eastern Montgomery County in the 2nd District represented by U.S. Rep. Terry Everett. Western Montgomery County is represented in the 7th District by U.S. Rep. Earl Hilliard, D-Birmingham.
The Senate-passed "consensus" plan would split Autauga and Montgomery counties between Hilliard and Everett and leave all of Elmore with Everett.
Guin's plan would split Montgomery between the 7th and 2nd; split Autauga between the 6th, represented by U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Birmingham, and the 7th, and Elmore between the 6th and 2nd.
Joining Guin in voting for his plan were: Reps. George Bandy, D-Opelika; Priscilla Dunn, D-Bessemer; Steve Hurst, D-Munford; Eric Major, D-Fairfield; Joseph Mitchell, D-Mobile; and Jack Page, D-Gadsden.
Voting against with McKee were: James Hamilton, D-Rogersville; Sue Schmitz, D-Toney; Johnny Curry, R-Hueytown; Walter Penry, R-Daphne; and Chris Pringle, R-Mobile.
Alabama Democrats likely would gain two seats in Congress after next year's elections under a redistricting plan that a legislative panel could pass today, a key lawmaker said.
State Rep. Ken Guin, D-Carbon Hill, on Tuesday said he likely will have the votes to win approval of his revised congressional redistricting plan in the Elections Committee of the state House of Representatives.
Guin chairs the committee, which plans to meet at 9 a.m. today to review a redistricting plan passed by the state Senate last week.
That plan, drafted by Sen. Jeff Enfinger, D-Huntsville, would make few partisan changes to six of Alabama's seven congressional districts. It would make the 3rd District in east-central Alabama slightly more Democratic, though Republicans think they still could win the revised 3rd District.
Alabama's four Republican and two Democratic congressmen interested in seeking re-election next year all have endorsed Enfinger's plan.
But Guin predicted he would have the votes on the 15-member Elections Committee to replace the Senate-passed plan with a substitute plan that he and other Democrats developed in recent days.
"If all the people are at the committee meeting, I think we win," Guin said.
The substitute plan would make strongly Democratic districts out of both the 1st District, now represented by U.S. Rep. Sonny Callahan, R-Mobile, and the 3rd District, now represented by U.S. Rep. Bob Riley, R-Ashland, who plans to run for governor next year instead of re-election.
Guin said there probably would not be partisan switches next year in the other congressional districts because of his plan.
Alabama now has five Republican and two Democratic congressmen. Guin said his plan likely would shift that balance to four Democrats and three Republicans after next year's elections.
Such a shift could be huge, since Republicans maintain a thin majority in the U.S. House of Representatives: 220 Republicans to 210 Democrats, along with two independents and three vacancies. A gain of two Democratic seats in Alabama could help Democrats seize control of the U.S. House.
Even if Guin's substitute were to win approval in the state House Elections Committee, however, it still would have to pass in the entire 105-member House and the 35-member Senate.
State Sen. George Callahan, R-Mobile, the brother of congressman Callahan, predicted Guin's substitute would never pass the Senate even if it were to pass the House Elections Committee and the full House.
"It ain't going to happen," Callahan said. "He can do what he wants to in his committee. It's time for him to stop Mickey Mouse-ing around. He's just putting his friends on the spot by doing this."
A federal court likely would have to redraw Alabama's congressional districts to reflect population shifts since 1990 if the state House and Senate fail to agree on one plan to pass into law.
Guin's substitute, as written Tuesday evening, would make relatively few changes to the 5th District, now represented by U.S. Rep. Bud Cramer, D-Huntsville, or the 4th District, now represented by U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville.
The 6th District, now represented by U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Vestavia Hills, would lose all its current portion of Tuscaloosa County and east Bibb County, and lose southwest Shelby County. It would add St. Clair, Chilton and Autauga counties and south Blount counties.
The 3rd District would lose St. Clair and Chilton counties and west Bibb County but add Bullock, Barbour and Henry counties and east Houston County.
The 7th District, now represented by U.S. Rep. Earl Hilliard, D-Birmingham, would lose Sumter, Greene, Hale, Marengo and Choctaw counties and part of Clarke and Tuscaloosa counties. It would add Bibb, Butler, Conecuh, Crenshaw and Monroe counties and southwest Shelby and more of west Montgomery County.
The 1st District would lose Baldwin, Escambia and Monroe counties and south Mobile County. It would add Choctaw, Marengo, Sumter, Greene, Tuscaloosa and Hale counties and part of Clarke County.
The 2nd District would lose Autauga, Bullock, Barbour, Henry, Crenshaw, Butler, and Conecuh counties and east Houston County. It would add Baldwin and Escambia counties and south Mobile County.
Senate approves district bill
By Mike Sherman
August 31, 2001
The Senate sponsor of a plan that redraws congressional district lines to increase chances of election of a third congressional Democrat from Alabama expects the plan to pass late next week or the following week.
The Senate passed 30-1 Thursday the bill approved by the state's incumbent Republican and Democratic congressmen who are seeking re-election.
An identical measure was postponed in the House, where some members argued that the redistricting plan should set up districts favorable to election of two more Democrats. The delegation is now split with five Republicans and two Democrats.
The compromise plan targets the 3rd District seat in east Alabama that U.S. Rep. Bob Riley, R-Ashland, is leaving to run for governor.
State Sen. Jeff Enfinger, D-Huntsville, sponsored the bill in the Senate, where it had bipartisan support.
"It has been 40 years since Alabama passed a congressional redistricting bill. It looks like we are on the way," Enfinger said. He said he expects passage late next week or the following week.
"This is a breakthrough plan that was signed off on by all the Republican and Democratic congressional members," said Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe.
Lt. Gov. Steve Windom, R-Mobile, said, "The plan does not have as many Republicans as we would like, but seeing as how we are outnumbered two-to-one, it is a pretty good plan."
In this area, the Senate-passed bill would split Autauga County, which is now in Republican U.S. Rep. Terry Everett's 2nd District, between Everett and Democratic U.S. Rep. Earl Hilliard in the 7th district. It also moves Bullock, Barbour and Henry counties from the 2nd to the 3rd.
State Rep. Mac Gipson, R-Prattville, complained on the House floor that Autauga could suffer from the split.
"Autauga is a progressive, growing county. Under this plan it would be hard to get solidarity when you've got a congressman from one party and a congressman from another," Gipson said.
Rep. Thad McClammy, D-Montgomery, said he has an alternate plan which would create two additional Democratic districts in the 2nd and 3rd districts. His 2nd District would start in Mobile County and extend through Montgomery to Macon and Bullock. His 3rd district would extend from Coffee County to Calhoun County.
Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, said the Senate-passed plan packs black voters into the 7th District, which extends from western Montgomery County to Birmingham and west to the Mississippi line.
He said he also favors at least two additional "very strong Democratic districts."
State Rep. Perry Hooper, R-Montgomery, said he believes the compromise bill will pass despite the House delay.
"Some members are concerned that they did not have enough input," he said. A delay will give others time to study other plans, such as McClammy's, he said.
The House also passed a plan to redraw the state's Board of Education district lines.
Knight was critical of that plan's District 4, represented by Ethel Bell, D-Fairfield, which includes portions of Jefferson, Shelby, Talladega and Calhoun counties.
"This plan will not withstand legal challenge. I will not tie up the House, but I cannot vote for it," Knight said. The House passed that bill 80-10. The Senate adjourned after beginning debate of its version of the school board plan.
Democrats see power chance
By Mike Cason
August 29, 2001
Democrats in the Alabama Legislature see a chance to cut into a 5-2 Republican edge in the state's congressional delegation.
But they disagree over just how far to reach in their efforts to draw new district lines to help their party.
Gov. Don Siegelman called lawmakers into special session on Tuesday. The Legislature will address ethics reforms, some funding bills and other topics. But a primary goal for the session is to redraw district lines, which is required after every census.
Sen. Jeff Enfinger, D-Huntsville, said there is strong support for a plan he will introduce at a public hearing today. The most significant changes would be in the 3rd District, which covers much of east central Alabama. U.S. Rep. Bob Riley, R-Ashland, is running for governor and will not seek re-election. With no incumbent, Democrats see the district as one they could win. They can enhance their chances by changing the lines.
"It's a competitive district," Enfinger said.
His plan would take Chilton and Bibb counties from the 3rd District and add Cherokee, Henry, Barbour and Bullock counties. The black population of the district would increase from 25.5 percent to 28 percent, Enfinger said, a move that could help a Democratic candidate. Overall, though, Enfinger said the change was not "dramatic." He said his plan changed the other four Republican districts even less.
Democrats hold a 24-11 edge in the Senate and a 68-37 edge in the House, so they control the redistricting process. But some Republicans seemed generally happy with the Enfinger plan.
Lt. Gov. Steve Windom, a Republican, said the congressional delegation was supportive of Enfinger's plan. At least two of the congressmen, Rep. Terry Everett, R-Enterprise and Rep. Sonny Callahan, R-Mobile, were at the State House on Tuesday.
Windom said Republicans could still win the 3rd District under the Enfinger plan because 54 percent of those in the proposed district voted for President Bush.
"It's been a tossup district," Windom said. "It (the Enfinger plan) gives the Democrats more of a chance."
Rep. Ken Guin, D-Carbon Hill, said his party should try for more dramatic gains.
Guin has proposed a plan that he said would allow Democrats to claim the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th districts and make the 4th a "swing" district. Guin said he was skeptical of any plan supported by the congressional delegation.
"My question is, why would we accept a plan drawn by five Republicans and two Democrats," Guin said. "It's very important that we as Democratic legislators focus on creating more Democratic districts."
Republicans hold a 10-seat edge in the U.S. House of Representatives. That means the balance of power in Congress could hinge on battles over district lines like the one in Alabama.
Alabama's current congressional districts were drawn by a three-judge federal panel after former Gov. Guy Hunt sued over a plan drawn by the Legislature.
Lawmakers must also redraw district lines for the state's eight Board of Education districts.
Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, president pro tem of the Senate, said it could vote on a redistricting plan as early as Thursday.
The special session can last up to 12 meeting days within 30 calendar days.
The southeast Alabama district represented by black state Rep. Locy Baker, D-Abbeville, changes from a majority of black citizens to a majority of whites. Baker said he's satisfied with the change and believes he can win re-election.
"I've won twice in the district. If I don't win again, it will be because of something I've not done. It won't be because of my race," he said.
Joe Reed, who designed the legislative districts Alabama has used since 1994, doesn't like the change.
"I get tired of fighting like hell to get things for black folks, and then black legislators give it away," said Reed, chairman of the Alabama Democratic Conference, the black wing of the Alabama Democratic Party.
The Legislature approved new districts on Monday, and Gov. Don Siegelman signed them into law on Tuesday. They won't take effect for the 2002 elections unless the U.S. Justice Department says they comply with the 1965 Voting Rights Act and they survive any challenges in state and federal court.
"I do believe this will pass constitutional muster," Siegelman said at a bill-signing ceremony Tuesday.
Reed said his organization has made no decision about mounting a legal challenge, but will take exception to Baker's district when the plan is reviewed by the Justice Department. If the Justice Department objects to the design of Baker's district, the Legislature would have an opportunity to meet again and alter the district lines, Reed said.
Reed was the architect of the legislative map that increased black representation in the Legislature in 1994, including turning House District 85 into a majority black district. The district elected Baker for the first time in 1994 and re-elected him in 1998.
The new redistricting plan changes Baker's district from 51 percent black to 48 percent black. Whites will make up 50.4 percent of the district.
Rep. Marcel Black, the chief designer of the new House districts, and legislative lawyers contend that's no problem because the adjoining district represented by white Rep. Billy Beasley, D-Clayton, was redrawn so that it goes from 38 percent black to 52 percent black.
They say the result would be that the House keeps the same number of majority black districts that it has had since 1994 ó 27 out of 105 districts ó and there is no reduction that would raise problems with the Voting Rights Act.
Reed said the numbers don't tell the whole story. The census numbers for Beasley's district includes three state prisons that are predominantly black, but inmates can't vote. That means the black voting population of the district may not be a majority, and it could be difficult to elect a black candidate in that district, particularly with Beasley's popularity.
Baker said local officials are happy with the way the district lines turned out, and Reed should accept it.
"This individual who is raising so much sand doesn't live in the district, doesn't pay taxes in the district, and has not come down to the district to see what the people want," Baker said.
Reed concedes that it will be hard to challenge the district designs because Baker and many black legislators voted for them, but he has had repeated successes at the Justice Department in the past.
Disputed Districts Design
Design of two legislative districts changing racial makeup:
House District 84
Incumbent: White Democrat Billy Beasley of Clayton
Old area: Barbour County and part of Henry County
Old racial makeup: 62 percent white, 38 percent black
New area: Barbour County and part of Bullock County
New racial makeup: 52 percent black, 46 percent white, 2 percent other
House District 85
Incumbent: Black Democrat Locy Baker of Abbeville
Old area: Parts of Henry, Houston and Dale counties
Old racial makeup: 51 percent black, 47 percent white, 2 percent other
New area: Henry County and part of Houston County
New racial makeup: 50 percent white, 48 percent black, 2 percent other
Lawmakers ended their six-day special session Monday after approving redistricting plans on party-line votes.
The governor announced he will sign the bills into law this morning, setting the stage for an expected court challenge by Republicans.
Democrats praised the plan as an historic first successful effort to redraw district lines. Republicans called it a flawed effort to dilute GOP voting strength.
Computer errors that removed census blocks in many counties forced a late rewrite of the bills.
"I think we did a pretty good job," said Sen. Charles Langford, D-Montgomery.
The House and Senate plans must win U.S. Justice Department approval as well as survive any lawsuits filed by Republicans.
Langford said he thinks the plans will pass both tests.
Rep. Perry Hooper, R-Montgomery, disagreed with Langford.
"I'm against the plans. I'm glad the Legislature addressed redistricting, but there are questions about packing and repacking districts to protect legislative seats. Now we will find out what happens in court," Hooper said.
Legislation providing that legal challenges to the plans must be filed in circuit court in Montgomery also passed.
Rep. Alvin Holmes, D-Montgomery, said his district drops from about 76 percent black to 70 percent black, but he voted for the plan.
"The Department of Justice will say it is not discriminatory because it maintains 27 black House districts and eight black Senate districts," he said.
"It is historic that the Legislature passed the plan," said Rep. Thad McClammy, D-Montgomery. He predicted court challenges will not be successful.
"Challenges are normally on racial criteria. I think this one met the standards," McClammy said.
Rep. Mac Gipson, R-Prattville, said, "If it passes Justice Department muster, Republicans will question in court why they are not represented equally." Formerly the only representative in Autauga County, Gipson's new district includes eastern Autauga County and western Elmore County.
"I've still got Autauga County and my district includes my businesses in Millbrook and Prattville. I'll take care of them all," Gipson said.
Rep. James Thomas, D-Camden, will represent western Autauga County.
"I had to gain 10,000 people. The only place to go was Autauga County. Dallas and western Autauga are contiguous and rural. I hope I will get a good vote in Autauga. I'm pleased and I'm confident," Thomas said.
House Speaker Seth Hammett, D-Andalusia, said the governor probably will call lawmakers back in another special session in late August to redraw congressional and state school board district lines and pass a series of appropriation bills not approved in the regular session.
Rep. Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia, sponsor of the House plan, said the plan should be moved to the Justice Department by the end of summer.
A glance at the new districts approved by the Legislature on Monday:
Senate plan: Sponsored by Sen. Jeff Enfinger, it redrew the 35 Senate districts without putting two incumbents in the same district. It is designed to at least maintain the Democrats' 24-11 margin in the Senate, as well as the eight majority black districts. The plan ends the Legislature's practice of having three House districts within each Senate district.
Pros Cons: Enfinger worked out problems that Alabama Democratic Conference Chairman Joe Reed had with the plan's design in the Montgomery area, but Republicans are already planning to challenge it in court.
House plan: Sponsored by Rep. Marcel Black, it re-drew the 105 House districts by creating three districts with no incumbents and three districts with two incumbents each. Of those incumbents, five are Republicans and one is a Democrat. The House district lines do not correspond to Senate district lines. The plan is designed to at least maintain the Democrats' 68-37 margin in the House. It also includes 27 majority black districts, the same number as now exists.
Pros Cons: Republicans contend the plan benefits Democrats by packing Republicans into as few districts as possible. They expect a court fight, which could take months.
Mike Sherman covers state government for the Montgomery Advertiser. He can be reached at 240-0131 or by fax at 261-1521.
The Legislature took an unprecedented step Monday by approving House and Senate district plans, but the next step will be state or federal court -- or both.
"I'm delighted the Legislature has fulfilled its constitutional responsibility,'' House Speaker Seth Hammett, D-Andalusia, said at the end of the 2001 special session. "We have followed good legal advice."
The special session was called June 25 by Gov. Don Siegelman to draw new House and Senate district lines required by population changes noted in the 2000 census.
The plans would double the size of one Shoals legislator's district and increase Senate representation from Lawrence County. Other than those changes, the Shoals' legislative map will look pretty much the same as it has since 1993.
"I'm assured by the House delegation that this plan is fair and disrupts as few House members in the state as possible,'' Sen. Bobby Denton, D-Muscle Shoals, said.
Republicans, unhappy with the plans, however, went to federal court in Mobile before the Legislature began meeting. Democrats countered with a bill that requires any court action to be heard in Montgomery County Circuit Court.
Rep. Tim Parker, R-Tuscaloosa, one of the opponents of the plan, said he hopes it goes to court.
"The grounds are blatant discrimination and breaking up communities of interest, ignoring city lines and county lines, you take your choice,'' Parker said.
The Democrat-dominated House passed the Senate district plan 57-37, and the Senate passed the House plan 21-8, with both votes falling along party lines. Democrats have a 24-11 advantage in the Senate.
The House plan has two Republican incumbents placed in other districts; Republicans say the remaining districts favor Democrats.
Both plans had to be amended on the floor of the House and Senate because the reapportionment office inadvertently left out 200 voting precincts in the Senate bill and 100 precincts in the House bill, said Sen. Jeff Enfinger, D-Huntsville, author of the Senate remap plan.
"We've got a bill that we believe is 100 percent accurate and legal, and we feel very good about what the reapportionment office has done,'' Enfinger said.
Siegelman's legal adviser was reviewing the bills, a spokesman said.
Legislators and legislative candidates will have to win the 105 new House districts and the 35 new Senate districts next spring and fall unless the plans fail U.S. Justice Department scrutiny or are changed by a court. Sen. President Pro Tem Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, said he believes the plan will pass court muster because courts are reluctant to get involved in legislative acts.
The Legislature had to draw Senate districts that contain an ideal population of 127,060 people, plus or minus 5 percent. The House deal district is 42,353 people, plus or minus 5 percent.
Republicans claim that some of the districts are too small or too large and violate the one man, one vote principle. The House plan doubles the size of Florence Democratic Rep. Nelson Starkey's district, which is the city of Florence.
Starkey picked up residents west of Florence in the bend of the Tennessee River in order to contain sufficient population to be a legal district.
Rep. James Hamilton, D-Rogersville, lost the voters because his district gained population between the 1990 and 2000 census.
Denton kept virtually his entire current Senate district in Colbert and Lauderdale counties.
The biggest change for northwest Alabama is in Lawrence County, which will get two senators.
Sen. Tommy Ed Roberts, D-Hartselle, lost Lawrence County and gained voters in Morgan County.
Picking up Lawrence County will be Sen. Zeb Little, D-Cullman, and Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville.
Rep. Jody Letson, D-Moulton, will pick up the northeastern 25 percent of Winston County.
The House and Senate will have to return to Montgomery for special session, probably the last week in August, to draw new congressional and state school board district lines and pass appropriation bills that failed during the regular legislative session that ended May 21.
Alabama Times Daily
The fight over political boundaries will begin Monday when Alabama legislators go into special session to determine legislative districts for the next 10 years.
Gov. Don Siegelman has ordered the Legislature into session beginning at 6 p.m. to redraw 105 House and 35 Senate district lines to reflect new population figures from the 2000 census.
Several proposals are expected to be scrutinized during the process.
Legislators have 12 meeting days to approve a redistricting plan that likely will be evaluated in federal court.
The only Senate district and possibly the only legislative district in the state that will remain unchanged geographically will be District 1 currently represented by Sen. Bobby Denton, D-Muscle Shoals.
House District 7, represented by Rep. Jody Letson, D-Moulton, might exit the reapportionment effort unchanged, according to a preliminary map of proposed House districts. Letson's district includes all of Lawrence County and the northwest corner of Winston County.
"Everything is premature at this point," said state Rep. Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia, who is co-chairman of a joint reapportionment committee. "There are a lot of scenarios out there."
Any plan approved must stay within 5 percent of ideal House and Senate districts. The ideal Senate district will consist of 127,060 people, and the ideal House district, 42,353.
The Senate redistricting plan that is getting the most attention and has the endorsement of Senate leadership was written by Jeff Enfinger, a Huntsville Democrat. The plan leaves Denton's district unchanged.
Enfinger said the plan has the support of at least 21 senators, the number necessary to cut off debate and force a vote.
Enfinger's plan will be debated Tuesday in a public hearing and probably voted on Wednesday.
Lawrence County will be among the counties affected most if that plan is approved.
The plan redraws Senate District 3 currently represented by Sen. Tommy Ed Roberts, D-Hartselle, and Senate District 4 represented by Sen. Zeb Little, D-Cullman.
Roberts now represents all of Lawrence County.
However, under the proposal by Enfinger's, Roberts would lose all of Lawrence County, and the county would gain Little as its second senator.
His district would get most of the county, but the southeastern corner would be represented by Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, the incumbent in District 6. Bedford's district includes all of Franklin, Lamar, Fayette and Marion counties and parts of Colbert and Pickens counties.
Enfinger said the Senate leadership's plan doesn't decrease or increase the number of black Senate districts statewide, a factor that any remap had to take into consideration.
Ken Guin, D-Carbon Hill, said his House plan wouldn't lessen the impact of black voters statewide although three Republican districts will contain two incumbents after his proposed remap is completed.
Guin is the House majority leader.
The Justice Department won't clear any reapportionment plan that dilutes black voting strength.
Joe Reed, chairman of the black Alabama Democratic Conference, introduced House and Senate remap plans that also do not dilute black voting strength.
He said his plan is available in case the Legislature cannot reapportion itself and its efforts end up in court, as have all previous attempts at reapportionment.
Reed said the difference in this year's attempt to redraw district lines and past attempts is the lack of the ability of white legislators to prohibit black legislative districts.
Alabama's Legislature contains virtually the same percentage of black representation as the population.
"There is no retrogression in minority districts,'' Enfinger said. "We tried to maintain communities of interest and we tried to correct the abnormal configurations that exist in current districts.''
Republicans already have filed a lawsuit over reapportionment, an act Democrats said is premature.
"Redistricting should be done by Alabamians, not by the courts or in Washington,'' said Senate President Pro Tem Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe.
Two proposed legislative reapportionment plans will be unveiled today in preparation for the special legislative session scheduled Monday to redraw House and Senate districts.
The Senate reapportionment plan is scheduled to be revealed by Sen. Jeff Enfinger, D-Huntsville, at a 9:30 a.m. news conference in the State House. A reapportionment plan developed by the Alabama Democratic Conference is scheduled to be shown at a 2 p.m. news conference at the Alabama Education Association office.
"We'll have maps and explanations,'' Enfinger said.
Enfinger said his Senate plan, which probably will be the version chosen by the Democratic-controlled Senate, does not put two incumbents into one district.
"I don't think anybody is 100 percent happy with the plan,'' said Enfinger, who added that he believes the plan will have at least the 21 votes necessary to stop an expected filibuster by Republicans and pass.
The Legislature is scheduled to go into special session at 6 p.m. Monday to consider redrawing the 105 House districts and the 35 state Senate districts, a task required every 10 years after a Census.
The Legislature has never successfully reapportioned itself, relying instead on the courts. And this time could be no different since there are now two lawsuits filed against legislative reapportionment, both by Republicans.
The House plan won't be revealed until at least Monday, said Rep. Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia, the co-chairman of the joint legislative committee on reapportionment.
The Legislature also plans to create districts that no longer will nest three House districts neatly into one Senate district. Lauderdale and Colbert counties are not expected to see much change in their elected representatives.
Dana Beyerle can be reached at or [email protected] or (334) 264-6605.
The Alabama Legislature won't start work until next week, but Republicans are already in court saying that whatever congressional redistricting plan lawmakers approve won't be good enough.
"Judging from the history of the Alabama Legislature, both its inability to make decisions on this and/or its political proclivity, it tells us the smart thing is to make sure we have some federal supervision of the whole process," said Marty Connors, chairman of the Alabama Republican Party.
The lawsuit, filed Friday in federal court in Mobile on behalf of three voters, asks a federal judge to take jurisdiction in the case because the Legislature ended its regular session without redrawing the districts. Lawmakers are required to draw new district lines based on the 2000 Census.
Democrats declared the lawsuit an end run on the democratic process. "It is an insult to the people of Alabama and an affront to the federal court," said Alabama Democratic Party Chairman Redding Pitt. He said he hopes state officials ask the judge in the case to "exercise judicial restraint" and allow legislators to approve a redistricting plan.
Gov. Don Siegelman has called a special session to begin Monday to redraw legislative districts. Historically, state lawmakers have failed to agree on new political boundaries for legislative and congressional districts.
The Department of Justice has objected to the Legislature's plans in the past, and the courts have had to step in.
Jerome Gray, state field director for the Alabama Democratic Conference, said the executive committee of the black wing of the party meets this weekend and may discuss whether to try to move the issue into state courts.
The holdout on a congressional redistricting plan says he is nearly ready to put his signature to the document that will be given to the Alabama Legislature this summer.
U.S. Rep. Earl Hilliard, a Democrat from Birmingham, has yet to approve a congressional redistricting plan approved by the state's six other congressmen. U.S. senators who run statewide are not subject to districts.
"I'm about 99 percent there,'' Hilliard said last week. "They made some changes and adjustments, and we've almost got a plan that will be acceptable.''
Those changes will affect Bibb, Pickens and Tuscaloosa counties in west Alabama. They will impact U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus, a Republican from Vestavia Hills whose district includes parts of Bibb, Jefferson, Shelby and Tuscaloosa counties.
Hilliard's district has gone through the most dramatic change of all seven congressional districts since the 1990 census.
Based on the 2000 census, Hilliard's 7th District will have to gain 90,000 people to meet the ideal population requirement of 635,300 for a congressional district and affect the six other districts, which all must lose between 8,000 and 29,500 people. Hilliard said that at least one-third of what he needs will have to come from Bachus' district.
"It's going to make Spencer's district less Republican because I'm drawing more out of his district,'' said Hilliard, elected in 1992 as the state's first African-American in Congress since Reconstruction.
Hilliard's district includes part of predominantly Democratic Pickens County, but he believes he'll get all of Pickens County from the 4th District represented by U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville.
"I don't want to increase the number of counties, so basically what is happening is I've got parts of four counties, so I'm taking more of four counties,'' he said. "The bulk is going to come out of Birmingham and Montgomery.''
Bachus, who represents part of Tuscaloosa County, will have to lose about 29,500 residents in order to meet the ideal district population size.
His press secretary, Jeff Emerson, said his district could pick up part of Tuscaloosa County and part of southern Walker County; and lose some or all of Bibb County in addition to losing parts of Jefferson County.
Aderholt's district could stay much the same because the district would have to lose only 8,000 people. His district includes Franklin County and most of Lawrence County.
Grace Robinson, the press secretary for U.S. Rep. Bud Cramer, a Democrat from Huntsville whose district includes the Shoals, said several plans have floated around.
Cramer's district will have to lose nearly 20,000 people, and he may accomplish that by shifting district lines in Morgan and Lawrence counties.
"We are early in the process, and there are many plans being floated around,'' Cramer said in a statement. "But I'm certain the plan will continue to evolve as the state Legislature begins to look at it.''
Congressional districts aren't the only election areas that will have to be changed this year.
Gov. Don Siegelman said he would call the Legislature into session in late June or early July to consider reapportioning the population of the state's 105 House districts and 35 Senate districts.
The Legislature has never reapportioned itself -- courts have done it before -- but party and legislative leaders are hopeful this time will be different.
"We want this to be done in the Legislature,'' said state Democratic Party Chairman Redding Pitt.
The dominant Democratic political party has protection as its goal, said Rep. Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia, co-chairman of the joint legislative reapportionment committee.
"Our goal is to look at it from a standpoint of population and where it shifted and take into consideration incumbent protection and where that can be held in the compactness of districts,'' Black said.
Population changes show that whites moved into urban and rural areas during the 1990s; that may mean Republican gains.
Pitt said legislators are using party equipment to work on reapportionment plans. But as for trying to stretch more Democratic districts, "that probably won't be the case,'' he said.
A Republican lawmaker disagrees with Pitt. "That's where politics come into play because they are going to protect their Democrats at the expense of Republicans,'' said state Rep. Tim Parker, R-Tuscaloosa.
The last time a court redrew boundaries, Republicans beat Democrats to a federal court and got districts that resulted in three Republicans and one black being elected to Congress.
State reapportionment was accomplished by a judge who created the most-ever black legislative districts.
"I think there's some consensus that we don't want to lose any black districts, and we're not going to, but there's no push to increase the number because that's not something that appears feasible,'' Pitt said.
"The main thing is we'll try to protect the districts we have,'' said Jerome Gray, field director for the Alabama Democratic Conference, the black wing of the state party.
The 2001 Senate has eight black senators, and the House has 26 black lawmakers. That's 24 percent of the 140 seats, roughly equal the state's racial makeup.
"Virtually all of the black districts are underpopulated, so they're going to have to gain population and that's doable, and, of course, that runs into the issue of, in doing so, you have to maintain good districting principles and identify Democratic voting precincts,'' Gray said.
Siegelman would have to call a second special session to redraw the seven congressional districts and the eight school board districts.
"The talk from the (reapportionment) committee is they want to do legislative first and then do the school board and Congress,'' said Bonnie Shanholtzer, supervisor of the legislative reapportionment office.
Population numbers aren't completely collected for two of the state's eight school board districts, the fourth and sixth.
But it's clear that school board District 7 represented by Sandra Ray of Tuscaloosa probably won't change much. With 555,846 people, it's nearly the ideal district population of 555,888. District 7 includes the Shoals.
Dana Beyerle can be reached at [email protected] or (334) 264-6605.