Alabama's Redistricting News
Cleburne News: "Redistricting Causes Some Confusion in
Heflin." August 19, 2004
More redistricting news from Alabama (May 27, 2001-January 6, 2002)
The Cleburne News
One caller to The Cleburne News reported he and his family were still listed on the old list and in the old district. He said he was told that he would have to vote for the candidates running in his old district rather than in his new district. He said he was told the city had not been provided an updated voters list, showing correct districts.
Before the end of the day the situation was taken care of and the voter was allowed to vote in his new district for new candidates. But his is just one of the �loophole� situations sometimes created when new district lines are drawn and poll workers or those in charge of elections have no real sense of who lives where - and no proof.
Heflin�s Acting City Clerk Kelly Bentley says such occurrances are
unfortunate and reminds voters they might want to bring a form of
identification and proof of actual residence ( a bill with the actual
street address) when they come to vote.
By press time The Cleburne News was already getting some phone calls from individuals suggesting there might be a legal challenge to this election, apparently based on what had already happened.
The Mobile County Commission has come up with a plan to redraw district lines in order to move about 11,000 voters from one district to another, since the population has grown in the western and southern parts of the county. Try Our Classifieds
Because many of the voters involved are black residents near Midtown and downtown Mobile, Commissioner Mike Dean's district in southern Mobile County would come to have the greatest percentage of whites.
It would surpass Commission President Freeman Jockisch's district in northwestern Mobile County by several thousand white voters.
That would further strengthen Dean's district as a Republican stronghold, with a minority population of 17 percent. Minorities traditionally vote Democratic, and Dean is a Republican.
Commissioner Sam Jones, a Democrat who represents northern Mobile County, would gain the voters from Dean's district, further solidifying it as a minority-dominated district. About 63 percent of his district would be black.
Jockisch's district will not be affected by the changes because his district is already the correct size.
The County Commission will hold a public meeting June 23 at 10 a.m. to display the planned changes. Maps and population breakdowns of each district will be on hand.
The new lines must be adopted before the next election in 2004.
But first the U.S. Justice Department must approve the changes, ensuring that they do not deny minorities the right to vote. As part of the Civil Rights Act of 1965, the Justice Department reviews all changes that affect voting rights in Alabama and eight other states, mostly in the South, as well as some portions of other states.
Both Jones and Dean said they are satisfied with the plan, which is similar to a proposal put forth by Dean about a year and a half ago.
"I think it's great," said Dean. "We got the districts about as even as we can get them."
When Dean first proposed his redistricting plan, he said one of the ways he picked which precincts to move was by looking at areas won by his Democratic opponent, then-incumbent Gary Tanner.
Dean said the precincts he wanted to move are higher-percentage minority areas that would help Jones get re-elected. He also said making the switch was easier in central Mobile because that's where his and Jones' districts meet.
Now, however, Dean said, the redrawing was done without regard to political parties, saying he only wanted to equalize the districts and satisfy federal guidelines. "As a commission, we decided to leave party politics behind and do what's best to meet federal statutes," he said.
Jones commented on the movement of black voters between districts, saying, "It wouldn't affect me if my district was all white." Jones himself is black. Dean is white.
In general, Jones said, he disagrees with redrawing political lines to create Republican and Democratic precincts "because that means a representative doesn't have to be responsive to one segment of the population."
The 2000 Census revealed that the population of Dean's district was roughly 148,000 people, compared to about 119,000 in Jones'. If all the districts were perfectly equal, each would have about 133,000 people -- a gain of about 14,000 people for Jones and a loss of about 14,000 for Dean.
The current plan comes close to the ideal, with Jones representing about 130,000 people, Jockisch representing about 133,000 and Dean representing about 136,000. Those populations appear to fit within Justice Department regulations.
In addition, the Justice Department requires that the strength of the minority vote in the majority black district is not diminished. Under the plan, the percentage of black voters in Jones' district would actually rise slightly, by three-quarters of a percent.
The percentage of blacks in Dean's district would drop four percentage points. Jockisch's district would remain 20.5 percent black.
TUSCALOOSA | The County Commission got its first look at possible scenarios for redistricting Wednesday, and Commissioners Bobby Miller and Reginald Murray were not happy with what they saw.
By law, government bodies are required to redraw district lines after each U.S. Census to maintain equitable populations in each district. And some bodies, such as the Tuscaloosa County Commission, must maintain at least one majority black district.
Murray wasn�t pleased that at least one scenario presented by the county planning department would have taken away black voters and added white voters to his District 4.
�Tampering with district lines to determine the outcome of an election is a dangerous game to play," he said.
Murray implied that Chairman Hardy McCollum was trying to influence the redrawing of the lines.
An angry McCollum replied that he wasn�t surprised that Murray would intimate that and denied any improprieties.
�The intent is to follow within the law," McCollum said.
Miller was displeased that the scenarios were created without his input. Miller�s District 3, which includes the fast growing Taylorville area, is the biggest in the county, with 46,424 residents under existing district lines.
The optimum population if all districts were equal would be 41,219. The law allows a deviation of 5 percent above or below that figure.
Mike Richardson�s District 1 is about 2,500 residents above optimum, and Gary Youngblood�s District 2 is 2,700 below it, and Murray�s district is nearly 5,000 below optimum.
Miller said the scenarios would take away some of his strongest areas of support.
�I think it�s just a starting point for us to look at and come up with districts," McCollum said. �This is nothing sacred."
Planning director Farrington Snipes said his department developed the four scenarios looking strictly at balancing population numbers, trying to maintain natural boundaries and preventing split voting wards.
He said his department will work to develop a plan that will be acceptable to all the commissioners.
After the commission approves the redistricting, it will go to the U.S. Department of Justice for approval.
�We want to get that ironed out and hopefully we can get this resolved in the next month or so," Snipes said.
The U.S. Justice Department on Monday approved the Legislature's plan to redraw Alabama's seven congressional districts and create another Democratic-leaning district, attorneys said.
But state Democratic Party leaders now say their chances are good of picking up two new seats with Monday's announcement that U.S. Rep. Sonny Callahan, R-Mobile, is retiring. Republicans, however, say that seat will remain in their hands.
The Democratic-controlled Legislature passed the congressional redistricting plan on Jan. 30 and Gov. Don Siegelman signed it into law the next day.
Justice Department preclearance was necessary before the plan could be enforced.
Monday's approval means the districts drawn by the Legislature will be in effect for every congressional election through 2010, starting with the June 4 primary elections, unless new lawsuits are filed and won, said Jack Park, assistant attorney general. "The plan is enforceable," Park said. "Alabama can conduct an election using that plan."
Justice Department officials had to certify that the plan would not dilute the voting strength of black Alabamians.
State Rep. Ken Guin, D-Carbon Hill, an attorney who helped draw the new districts, said the plan is fair. "I cannot imagine a federal court changing these district lines," he said.
Monday's approval effectively ends federal lawsuits filed last year because the Legislature took so long to redraw the districts.
U.S. District Judge Harold Albritton of Montgomery said Monday morning that he and two other federal judges hearing the cases would let the Legislature's plan take effect if the Justice Department approved it this week. Word of the approval came less than an hour later.
Alabama now has five Republicans and two Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
But Guin said the new district lines give Democrats a possible third Democratic seat after the Nov. 5 general elections. State lawmakers redrew the boundaries of the 3rd District in east-central Alabama to include more blacks, who tend to vote overwhelmingly Democratic in Alabama. The seat now is held by U.S. Rep. Bob Riley, R-Ashland, who is running for governor instead of re-election.
"We ought to pick up one seat, with a decent candidate," said Guin, the Democratic majority leader in the state House of Representatives.
For the first time, lawmakers passed redistricting plans for the state House and Senate seats and for Congress and got them all approved by the Justice Department.
State Democratic Party chairman Redding Pitt said Callahan's decision to retire from his 1st District seat greatly improves chances for a Democrat to take over that seat as well as the 3rd District.
"We could actually run a competitive and possibly a winning race in the 1st District now," Pitt said. "I think this one is just a scramble. And anything could happen."
But state Republican Party chairman Marty Connors said the 1st District remains a solid seat that Republicans should keep.
He added that state Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Anniston, is running a good, hard campaign to win the 3rd District seat, and that it's not a done deal that a Democrat will win there.
Connors said the Democratic-controlled Legislature may have helped Republicans by keeping the 1st District Republican and still giving a good Republican candidate a shot at winning the 3rd District.
"The way the lines are drawn under the Democrats' plan may end up being a blessing in disguise for us," Connors said.
A federal appeals has upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the political districts used by the State Board of Education.
Attorney General Bill Pryor said the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision Friday that affirmed a lower court decision dismissing a lawsuit filed by Montgomery attorney Mark Montiel.
Montiel's suit started out challenging the Legislature's failure to draw new school board districts based on the 2000 census. After the Legislature drew new districts for use in last year's elections, Montiel changed his suit to raise new issues.
The 11th Circuit said Montiel's suit is moot because the Legislature drew the new districts and got them approved by the U.S. Justice Department.
"In upholding the dismissal of this lawsuit, the court acknowledges that the Legislature has fulfilled this responsibility and that the state has moved forward properly with the election of officials under these new redistricting plans," Pryor said in a statement on Monday.
White House officials lobbied Alabama legislators this week, attempting to block the new borders of a congressional district in east Alabama.
Rep. Sue Schmitz, a Democrat from Toney, said she received a call from the White House this week asking her to support President Bush or bear the consequences in her upcoming bid for re-election.
An assistant director from the office of Governmental Affairs for Public Policy told her: " 'We need you to vote in the president's best interest.' I didn't know I was on the president's radar," said Schmitz on Friday.
At issue was the District 3 congressional seat in east Alabama. That's the home of U.S. Rep. Bob Riley.
Riley, a Republican, will not seek re-election this fall and instead is running for governor. That leaves an open seat for the November election.
Republicans currently cling to a 10-seat edge in the U.S. House of Representatives. That means a shift of six seats nationwide this fall could give Democrats control.
In Alabama, a Democrat-backed plan for redistricting changed the boundaries in a way that increased the number of black and other historically Democratic voters in District 3. The plan has passed both houses, and the governor has signed it.
Schmitz said the White House painted a scenario where Democrats took control of the U.S. House, then U.S. Rep. Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., became the next House leader, thus thwarting future policies of Bush.
Schmitz said she didn't like the implications from the White House. "They indicated that they would have the president send letters to people in my district stating that I favored Gephardt as speaker of the House," said Schmitz.
Schmitz is seeking re-election in November.
She represents much of northwest Madison County, including Toney, Bobo, Harvest, and parts of north Huntsville. She faces a challenge from Shawn Fargerson, a Republican minister and member of the Madison County school board.
Marty Connors, chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, said Alabama Republicans didn't ask the White House for help: They didn't need to.
Federal politicians have been watching Alabama's District 3 lines for the last year, said Connors.
"They invited themselves," he said. "We didn't have to beg them. They knew the seriousness of that vote."
Schmitz said she knew of five other lawmakers who received similar telephone calls from the White House. She said she also received a call from U.S. Rep. Bud Cramer, a Huntsville Democrat, supporting the new congressional districts.
The state is required to re-draw congressional districts after each census. If the Legislature does not redraw the lines, then the task falls to federal judges.
On Wednesday, the state House voted 60-38 in favor of the new lines. It passed the state Senate a week earlier.
On Thursday, Gov. Don Siegelman signed the new districts into law. There are minor changes throughout the state. But District 3, the only open seat, sees a significant shift in voter composition.
The Legislature removed portions of St. Clair, Chilton and Coosa counties, while adding portions of Cherokee and Montgomery counties to District 3.
The Birmingham News reported the shift would increase the district's percentage of Democratic voters from 51.1 percent to 57 percent, according to recent election results.
"We don't think we're going to lose the Third District. We still think we're going to win it," said Connors.
Connors said the vote could even be good for the Republican party in Madison County. This is an area rife with federal jobs, yet the local delegation largely voted against the wishes of President Bush on the redistricting issue. Connors said that could affect upcoming local elections for state legislative seats.
Redding Pitt, chairman of the state Democratic Party, said lawmakers had been fighting a "pitched battle" with "White House operatives" throughout the redistricting debate.
"This is not something that cannot be won from Washington," said Pitt. "And we won, thanks to people like Sue." Pitt said the new districts better represent the state.
While Alabama has five Republican representatives and two Democratic representatives, the state is more evenly split between the two parties.
Neither Pitt nor Connors recalled similar lobbying by the White House in a matter before the Alabama Legislature.
"I am glad to know that the votes in the state of Alabama are being watched," said Schmitz.
Gov. Don Siegelman Thursday signed a congressional redistricting plan that splits Morgan County and puts the 4th Congressional District represented by Republican Rep. Robert Aderholt at Huntsville's back door.
The plan now heads to the Justice Department for approval under the federal Voting Rights Act, with qualifying approaching for the June primaries.
Congressional redistricting is required after every federal census.
The redrawn 5th Congressional District seat held by U.S. Rep. Bud Cramer, D-Huntsville, keeps all of Madison, Limestone and Jackson counties, along with the Florence-Muscle Shoals area.
Aderholt's district retains Marshall, DeKalb and Etowah counties, among others, and picks up nearly 50,000 people in a large chunk of Morgan County that had been in Cramer's district. District 4 also extends through several northwest Alabama counties to the Mississippi line.
Areas in Morgan County under the new 4th District include Lacey's Spring, Falkville, Somerville, Eva and Priceville. Decatur is split generally along U.S. 31, with western portions still in the 5th District.
Rep. Bill Dukes, D-Decatur, supported the plan but with reservations.
''It split my city," he said. "It split my county but, still overall, I liked it.''
Dukes said having the Legislature rewrite the plan was preferable to leaving it in the hands of a federal court.
The Alabama House voted 60-38 for the plan after Republican stalling tactics failed to delay a vote.
Rep. Jim Haney, R-Huntsville, said the plan divides counties unnecessarily to shift more Democratic voters into some districts. Haney disagreed with some Morgan County leaders who contend having two U.S. House members is better than one.
''Seems to me, you have to double the effort sometimes to get anything approved," Haney said.
Dukes said Morgan County will increase its clout by having Cramer's seniority and another member of Congress, be it Aderholt or another Republican or Democrat, also looking after its interests.
Democratic and Republican lawmakers rapped opposing plans as gerrymandering for political gain.
The biggest change is to the open District 3 seat in east Alabama held by U.S. Rep. Bob Riley, R-Ashland, who is running for governor. Republicans hold a 5-2 advantage in Alabama's congressional delegation. National Democrats got involved in Alabama's redistricting fight to help return control of the U.S. House to Democrats.
State Democratic Party Chairman Redding Pitt said lines were changed to keep older sections of Decatur in the 5th District and shifting the newer ones to the 4th.
In Morgan County, precincts moved into the 4th District include Eastwood Elementary, Priceville Fire Station, Lacey's Spring Community Center, Union Hill Junior High, Sparkman Elementary and Neel FD.
The state House of Representatives gave final approval Wednesday to a plan that would redraw Alabama's seven congressional districts and create another Democratic-leaning one.
The House voted 60 to 38 for the plan, which passed the Senate last week. It will become law if Gov. Don Siegelman signs it.
He has said he would.
The U.S. Justice Department would then review the plan to make sure it wouldn't dilute the voting strength of blacks, and it could be in effect for the June 4 primaries.
Republicans said the plan, which would change the political slant of the 3rd District in east Alabama, could help give Democrats control of the U.S. House of Representatives. State Rep. Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, said that could help make U.S. Rep. Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., the next leader of the 435-seat U.S. House. "His goal would be to undermine the president's agenda," Hubbard said.
Republicans hold an 11-seat majority in the U.S. House. A shift of just six seats nationwide this fall could give Democrats control.
State Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Anniston, warned that U.S. Rep. Sonny Callahan, R-Mobile, would lose a key chairmanship if Democrats take power. Rogers said Callahan, as chairman of the waterways and energy subcommittee of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, has brought more than $380 million in projects back to Alabama.
But Democrats said the current congressional districts, approved by federal judges in 1992, unfairly favored Republicans in a state that is split about 50-50 between parties.
Alabama now has five Republicans and two Democrats in the U.S. House.
"We have a plan that is fair," said state Rep. Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia. "It will be representative of the state."
The 3rd District incumbent, Republican Bob Riley of Ashland, is running for governor instead of re-election.
Democrats targeted the 3rd District for takeover and redrew its boundaries to include more blacks. Blacks in Alabama tend to vote heavily Democratic.
The percentage of black residents in the 3rd District under the Legislature's plan would jump from 25.3 percent to 32.7 percent. Its percentage of Democratic voters would rise from 51.1 percent to 57 percent, based on some election results from 2000 and 1998.
Black said he wanted the Legislature to pass its own redistricting plan to try to keep three Republican-appointed federal judges from redrawing the districts. The judges, including U.S. District Judge Harold Albritton of Montgomery, recently revealed a redistricting plan drawn by experts they appointed.
That plan would make few changes to congressional district lines, and some Democrats said Alabama's congressional lineup likely would remain at five Republicans and two Democrats.
They said it might even endanger the seat of U.S. Rep. Bud Cramer, D-Huntsville.
Albritton said Monday the judges would rather lawmakers pass their own plan.
Congressional districts must be redrawn after every census to make sure each district includes roughly the same number of people.
The federal judges could draw the district lines for this year's elections if the Justice Department rejects the Legislature's plan or takes an unusually long time to approve it.
April 5 deadline:
Now, the deadline is April 5 to qualify to run for Congress as a Democrat or Republican.
But state Sen. Jeff Enfinger, D-Huntsville, has filed a bill to move the deadline to May 6 to give the Justice Department more time to review the Legislature's plan.
Under the plan, St. Clair County would undergo a complete change in congressional districts. The county now is in the 3rd District.
But most of the county, including Moody, Pell City and Springville, under the plan would join the 6th District now represented by U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Vestavia Hills.
The county's northern quarter, including Steele and part of Ashville, would join the 4th District now represented by U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville.
The 3rd District would lose Chilton County, St. Clair County, west Coosa County and its current share of west Bibb County.
It would add Cherokee County and most of Montgomery County, excluding a northern edge.
Following a monthslong redistricting battle that has already triggered a federal court squabble, Alabama Democrats are finalizing a new House map this week that would boost their party's strength in retiring Rep. Bob Riley's (R) district. But the map may also prompt another primary challenge to Rep. Earl Hilliard (D).
Amid intense jockeying by Members who flew to Montgomery to monitor the remap, the state's Democratic-controlled House was deliberating a plan late yesterday that would move several majority-black precincts in west Montgomery from Hilliard's 7th district to the 3rd district, a traditionally Democratic stronghold that Riley has nonetheless held with little trouble since 1996. Riley, who did not draw a Democratic opponent in 2000, is running this year to challenge Gov. Don Siegelman(D).
The Democratic redistricting plan also moves St. Clair, Chilton and Bibb counties, which lean Republican, from the 3rd into neighboring districts.
The black-voter population in the 3rd would increase from 25 percent to 33 percent. The minority population in Hilliard's district, which stretches from Birmingham through west and central Alabama, would be reduced from 70 percent to 63 percent.
The Democratic plan would shore up GOPstrength in the four districts now held by Republican Reps. Terry Everett, Spencer Bachus, Sonny Callahan and Robert Aderholt. The state House plan closely resembles one approved last week in the state Senate, where Democrats also have a solid majority. Republicans currently have a 5-2 majority in the state's House delegation.
Meanwhile, in the majority-black 7th district, attorney Artur Davis, who took 34 percent in a three-way Democratic primary with Hilliard in 2000, launched his second House bid last week in a reconfigured district he said now favors him. Davis, like Hilliard, is black.
Alabama has emerged as one of several small states that House Democrats are relying on to deliver gains in a redistricting process that could determine which party controls the House next year. The party is also aiming for small gains in Colorado and Maryland, where Democrats are expected to approve a plan next month that targets GOPRep. Connie Morella.
Republicans in Alabama have staged several protests, claiming that the Democratic plan is a "vicious racial gerrymander"that would not survive a court challenge. "It literally separates churches from their parking lots,"said state Rep.Greg Wren (R)."They've broken census blocs and tracts, streets and driveways, solely on the basis of race."
Despite predictions of Democratic gains, Republicans are expected to compete aggressively in the new 3rd given Riley's impressive performance here and the state's consistent movement toward the GOP in the 1990s. Although Republican leaders have united behind state Rep. Mike Rogers (R) as their nominee, Democrats are bracing for a crowded primary. Potential Democratic candidates include businessman Joe Turnham, former chairman of the state Democratic Party, who took 42 percent in a 1998 challenge to Riley; state Rep. Gerald Willis; attorney Doug Ghee, a former state Senator; and state Sen. Ted Little, who lost the 1996 open-seat race to Riley by 3 points.
Hilliard, who traveled to Montgomery on Wednesday to testify on the redistricting plan, said the new map "hurts me tremendously."
"It puts me in a whole new area and changes my district drastically. Forty percent of the voters are new to me," he said. "It's going to be a challenge."
Indeed, Davis said the new district's lines bode well for him. Two key counties where he performed well in the 2000 primary, Jefferson and Tuscaloosa, would make up more than 60 percent of the voters in the newly-configured district, while two that Hilliard carried, Montgomery and Lowndes, would be eliminated altogether, Davis said.
Davis, who called Hilliard an "embarrassment"in a televisionad in 2000, focused his campaign that year on Hilliard's opposition to gun control and campaign donations he has taken from the National Rifle Association since 1997. He drew the endorsement of Birmingham Mayor Bernard Kincaid. Hilliard, who spent $433,000 in his 2000 re-election race, raised $102,000 during the second half of 2001, including a $13,000 personal loan, according to a report he filed this week with the Federal Election Commission. He had $19,000 on hand Dec. 31.
In Montgomery, a three-judge federal panel began a trial Monday on lawsuits filed by Democrats and Republicans over the Legislature's failure, so far, to draw new Congressional districts reflecting population changes in the 2000 census. Once the state Legislature approves the map, the Justice Department will review the plan to ensure that it complies with the Voting Rights Act, a process that can take up to 60 days.
The U.S. House of Representatives edged closer to Democratic control Tuesday when a state House committee approved a congressional redistricting plan that would make the 3rd Congressional District substantially more Democratic.
The House Elections Committee split 10-5 along party lines in approving the congressional plan, which the Senate passed last week. The plan now goes to a vote of the full House. A minor change made to the plan in committee means the Senate's concurrence will be needed for final passage.
Democrats hope to close the GOP's 220-210 lead in the U.S. House by picking off the 3rd District, which U.S. Rep. Bob Riley is vacating to run for governor. The Democrats won control of the U.S. Senate last year.
"It's one of the top six that the Democratic Party would like to choose," said Rep. Gerald Willis, D-Piedmont. "If we get the plan or one like it, I will be a candidate."
The plan would shift the predominantly black and Democratic neighborhoods of West Montgomery from the 7th Congressional District, which is represented by Democrat Earl Hilliard and includes much of the poor agricultural region of the Black Belt, to the 3rd District.
During the public hearing segment of the meeting, Rep. Mike Rogers, a candidate for the 3rd District Republican primary, led the opposition.
"Here we are because of partisanship, at the 11th hour, trying to ram through a plan," said Rogers, R-Saks. Rogers called the plan disruptive to communities and politically divisive, and said it would shift a candidate's interest from Anniston, which has been a key northern Alabama city, to southern population centers around Montgomery and Auburn.
Rep. Greg Wren, R-Montgomery, also bemoaned the carving up of his city, saying the plan was "egregious, invasive and would destroy communities of interest."
Joe Turnham, an Auburn businessman, former state Democratic chairman and probable 3rd District candidate, gave the opposite view.
"This plan protects communities of interest," Turnham said, reasoning that it would give blacks in Montgomery a greater say by removing them from a Democrat-saturated district and placing them in one where they would become a major constituency.
The Legislature failed to approve new congressional districts during a special session last summer.
A panel of three federal judges started a trial Monday to decide whether to take over the drafting process. The judges have said they would prefer that the Legislature redraw the districts in time for use in the June 4 party primaries.
The state Senate on Thursday passed a plan that would redraw Alabama's seven congressional districts and make the 3rd District in east Alabama lean Democratic.
The Senate voted 27-7 for the plan. It now goes to the state House of Representatives for debate.
Speaker Seth Hammett, the House leader, said the 105-member House could pass the plan as soon as Wednesday. It then would become law unless Gov. Don Siegelman objected.
Alabama now has five Republicans and two Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives. But U.S. Rep. Bob Riley, R-Ashland, the 3rd District incumbent, is running for governor instead of re-election this year.
State Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, said that under the Senate-passed redistricting plan, Democrats should be able to replace Riley with a third Democratic member of Congress from Alabama if they run a good candidate in the 3rd District.
"It's slightly more Democratic than it is now," said Barron, the top-ranking state senator.
He said people should expect the Legislature to pass a plan that would help Democrats, since Democrats outnumber Republicans 24-11 in the state Senate and 67-38 in the Alabama House.
The Senate-passed plan could hold national importance because a swing of six seats nationwide from Republicans to Democrats could give Democrats control of the 435-member U.S. House.
Republican Lt. Gov. Steve Windom said the Senate-passed plan isn't what Republicans would have drawn themselves, but wasn't bad considering that Republicans hold only about a third of the seats in the Legislature.
"I'm not wild about it, but it could be worse," Windom said.
Alabama's three Republican and three Democratic congressmen running for re-election this year said they could accept the Senate-passed plan, said Sen. Larry Dixon, R-Montgomery.
If House members change the redistricting plan next week, the Senate would object to any change opposed by the congressmen, said Sen. Tommy Ed Roberts, D-Hartselle.
Roberts said he and two other senators, Larry Means, D-Attalla, and Vivian Davis Figures, D-Mobile, reached an agreement with Barron and other Senate leaders Thursday that any one of them could reject any change proposed by House members. Roberts said the three senators would protect the interests of the six congressmen seeking re-election.
Several Democrats said they want the Legislature to pass its own redistricting plan by next week to try to keep three federal judges, all appointed by former Republican President George Bush, from drawing their own plan.
Congressional districts must be redrawn after every census to reflect population shifts and make sure each district includes roughly the same number of people. If lawmakers don't do it in time for the June 4 primary elections, the judges will.
The Senate-passed plan would boost the percentage of Democratic voters in the 3rd District from 51.1 percent now to 57 percent, based on results of the 2000 presidential election and 1998 elections for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.
The percentage of black residents in the 3rd District would jump from 25.3 percent to 32.7 percent. Blacks in Alabama tend to vote heavily Democratic.
The 3rd District under the Senate-passed plan would lose Chilton County and part of Bibb, Coosa and St. Clair counties. It would add Cherokee County and most of Montgomery County, excluding the northwest corner.
The 6th District, now represented by U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Vestavia Hills, would lose parts of central Jefferson and southwest Tuscaloosa counties to the 7th District under the Senate-passed plan.
The new 6th District, for instance, would lose at least parts of Pleasant Grove, Pinson, North Johns, Minor, McDonald Chapel, Irondale, Homewood, Graysville, Forestdale, Edgewater, Cardiff, Brookside and Birmingham.
The proposed new 6th District would keep Shelby County. It would add west Bibb County to take in the entire county. It also would add all but the northern quarter of St. Clair County, west Coosa County and all of Chilton County.
The new 6th District would be 89.7 percent white and 32.5 percent Democratic, based on a review of 1998 and 2000 elections.
The 7th District, now represented by U.S. Rep. Earl Hilliard, D-Birmingham, under the Senate-passed plan would gain parts of central Jefferson County and southwest Tuscaloosa County.
The proposed 7th District would increase its shares of Pickens County and Clarke County. It would lose Lowndes County and its current share of Montgomery County.
It would keep Choctaw, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Marengo, Perry, Sumter and Wilcox counties.
The new 7th District would be 62.4 percent black and 71.6 percent Democratic.
How they voted
The Alabama Senate's 27-7 vote Thursday to approve new congressional districts:
Voting for (27)�Barron, Bedford, Biddle, Butler, Callahan, Clay, Denton, Enfinger, Escott-Russell, Figures, Holley, Langford, Lindsey, T. Little, Z. Little, McClain, Means, Mitchell, Mitchem, Myers, Poole, Preuitt, Roberts, Sanders, Smitherman, Steele and Waggoner.
Voting against (7)�Dial, Dixon, French, Lee, Lipscomb, Marsh, and Smith.
Not voting (1)�Armistead.
Republican and Democratic state senators battled to a draw Wednesday over a Congressional redistricting plan that would create a Democratic-leaning 3rd District in east Alabama.
State Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, predicted the 35-member Senate would pass a redistricting plan not long after it opens its session at 11 a.m. today. He said Democrats would have the 21 votes needed to stop Republican delaying tactics and force a vote.
Two Democrats had to leave Wednesday because of emergencies. Two others had already scheduled other activities; the Senate usually doesn't meet on a Wednesday.
Congressional districts must be redrawn after every census to reflect population shifts and make sure each district includes roughly the same number of people.
Alabama now has five Republicans and two Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives. But U.S. Rep. Bob Riley, R-Ashland, who holds the 3rd District seat, is running for governor this year.
Most Democratic senators want to make the open 3rd District seat easier for a Democrat to win.
A plan presented Wednesday by state Sen. Jeff Enfinger, D-Huntsville, would boost the estimated percentage of Democratic voters in the district from 51.1 percent to 57 percent. The percentage of black residents in district would jump from 25.3 percent to 32.7 percent. Blacks in Alabama tend to vote heavily Democratic.
Sen. Steve French, R-Mountain Brook, protested that Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore would have carried the 3rd District in 2000 had it been drawn according to Enfinger's plan.
"They've gone overboard," French said.
He said Democratic senators today might propose making the 3rd District a little less Democratic to avoid legal problems he said could arise from packing too many blacks in the 3rd District and too many whites in the bordering 2nd District in southeast Alabama and 4th District in north Alabama.
Enfinger said none of the shifts proposed in his latest plan for the other six congressional districts would harm the re-election chances of incumbents.
Senate Republicans oppose Enfinger's latest plan. "This has national significance," said state Sen. George Callahan, R-Theodore.
He noted that his brother, U.S. Rep. Sonny Callahan, R-Mobile, chairs the energy and water development subcommittee of the U.S. House panel that oversees federal spending.
If Democrats were to gain control of the 435-member U.S. House, by adding a Democratic seat from Alabama and a handful more from other states, Sonny Callahan would lose his powerful chairmanship, his brother noted. The state senator said such a change would hurt Alabama.
"We're going to remove from chairmanships those influential members of Congress we currently have elected," George Callahan said.
Any redistricting plan passed by the Senate today could be debated by the Alabama House as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday. Democrats outnumber Republicans 67-38 in the state House and 24-11 in the Senate.
Key Democrats say they want to pass their own plan by next week in a bid to prevent three federal judges, all appointed by former Republican President George Bush, from drawing their own plan.
Recent details of how Republican-appointed judges may redraw Alabama's congressional districts should inspire Democrats to push their own redistricting plan quickly through the Legislature, state lawmakers said Monday.
"I think that will motivate Democrats," said Rep. Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia, who has tried for months to get members of the state House of Representatives and Senate to agree on a redistricting plan.
Alabama has five Republicans and two Democrats in the U.S. House. But U.S. Rep. Bob Riley, R-Ashland, who holds the 3rd District seat in East Alabama, is running for governor instead of re-election this year.
Many Democrats want the Legislature, which is controlled by Democrats, to redraw congressional districts to make the 3rd District lean more Democratic by adding black voters from other districts. Blacks in Alabama tend to vote heavily Democratic.
State Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, said there's a good chance the Senate this week will pass a congressional redistricting plan that would boost the percentage of black residents in the 3rd District from about 25 percent to about 32 percent.
That's less than the target of 37 percent that some state House members want, but more than the target of 29 percent favored by some senators.
"I'm very optimistic," said Barron, the top-ranking state senator. He said the Legislature likely will meet today, Wednesday and Thursday.
Democrats are pushing harder now to pass their own redistricting plan because they didn't like a preliminary redistricting plan unveiled last week by experts appointed by three federal judges, said state Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Anniston.
Eyes on the 3rd:
The proposed map would make few changes to current districts, moving only 3.1 percent of Alabamians about 138,000 people into different congressional districts.
It also would make the 3rd District 25.7 percent black, roughly its current percentage.
"The bottom line is, the 3rd stays pretty much as it is, almost identically as it is. That's something I find appealing," said Rogers, who is running to become the next Republican to hold the 3rd District seat.
The three federal judges, all appointed by former Republican President George Bush, will redraw Alabama's congressional districts in time for the June 4 primary elections if state lawmakers don't do it.
Black agreed the map proposed by the federal judges' experts should rekindle Democrats' efforts to pass their own plan with a more-Democratic 3rd District.
"We're still talking and working," Black said. "It's not a done deal, but it's not a dead deal."
A gain of one seat by Democrats in Alabama could have national importance, since a shift of just six seats in the 435-member U.S. House could shift control from Republicans to Democrats.
Barron said he doubted the Senate would agree to any more than a 32-percent black population in the 3rd District.
He said doing more could make the 2nd District in southeast Alabama and 4th District in North Alabama so heavily Republican that a Democrat would have a hard time winning either seat once the incumbents, U.S. Rep. Terry Everett, R-Enterprise, and Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, leave office.
Black said some House members still hope the percentage of black residents in a new 3rd District could be raised above 32 percent.
"I think the goal all along has been to make the 3rd a Democratic seat," Black said. "It was just a matter of trying to agree on how to do that, make it a winnable seat, and leaving the 4th and 2nd (districts) competitive should there be open seats there."
Black said time is running short for lawmakers to pass their own plan. The federal judges, led by U.S. District Judge Ira DeMent of Montgomery, plan to meet again Monday to review the redistricting map proposed by their experts.
Black predicted the judges will defer to the Legislature if lawmakers pass their own redistricting plan soon, perhaps by next week.
DeMent last week said he would prefer the Legislature to redraw congressional districts rather than have him and the other judges do it.
But even if lawmakers approve a plan soon, the U.S. Justice Department could take as long as 60 days to review any plan to make sure it wouldn't dilute black voting strength.
And that, Rogers said, could be close to the April 5 deadline for candidates to qualify to run in the Democratic and Republican primary elections scheduled June 4.
Key state lawmakers said Tuesday that time is running out on their efforts to redraw Alabama's seven congressional districts, perhaps creating another Democratic-leaning district.
They said a deal, while possible, is becoming more and more unlikely.
"We've not given up. It's an uphill climb," said state Rep. Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia, one of the negotiators in talks between the state Senate and House of Representatives.
Most senators for months now have preferred a plan that would make few changes to the districts, which must be redrawn to reflect population shifts since 1990. The state now is represented by five Republicans and two Democrats.
But most House members have favored a plan by state Rep. Ken Guin, D-Carbon Hill, that would create a Democratic-leaning 3rd District in east Alabama. U.S. Rep. Bob Riley, R-Ashland, who now holds that seat, is running for governor instead of re-election this year.
Legislative leaders last week said redistricting efforts by the Legislature would be dead unless both sides could agree on one plan by Tuesday. That didn't happen.
Some lawmakers said it still could.
"I am more encouraged and optimistic about redistricting than I was, but we still have a lot of serious negotiation to do. It's not dead. It's still 50-50," said Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, the top-ranking state senator.
Guin is pushing hard for the Legislature to pass a redistricting plan before Jan. 28, when a panel of three federal judges plans to start hearing a lawsuit on redistricting and could start drawing its own plan.
All three judges were appointed by former Republican President George Bush.
Republican state lawmakers are dragging their feet, trying to kill Guin's plan. They want the three Republican-appointed judges, not the Democratic-controlled Legislature, to draw the new congressional districts.
Alabama Democrats will blow a �great opportunity� if they can�t agree on a new congressional district map, a veteran of redistricting wars said Monday.
Today will be the last chance for Democrats to settle on a map in time to get it through the state Legislature for the 2002 elections, House Speaker Seth Hammett said last week.
Republicans hold five of seven congressional seats.
The Legislature must draw new congressional districts after every census.
Democrats hold almost a 2-1 edge in the Legislature. So why haven�t they agreed on a plan that would help them win more congressional seats?
�You�ll have to ask them,� said Jerome Gray, state field director for the Alabama Democratic Conference, a black political group that has played an integral role in drawing district lines for decades. �Scaredy cats, for the most part. They lack courage. They�re not really committed.�
Rep. Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia, is one of the Democrats working on the plan. Black said there�s honest disagreement.
�You�ve got different personalities and different factions ... different people have different ideas on how to accomplish the same goal. No one is just roadblocking it.�
Time is short because a redistricting lawsuit will be heard in federal court in Montgomery beginning Jan. 28. Also, the U.S. Justice Department must approve the plan in time for the June 4 primaries.
Besides Alabama, 18 other states are trying to draw new congressional districts based on the 2000 Census, said Tim Storey, an analyst for the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Twenty-four states have new plans, although some of those still await approval from courts or the Justice Department, Storey said. Seven states have only one district.
�The states that tend to have less controversy are the states where you have one-party control, and I realize Alabama would fit in that category in theory,� Storey said. �But it�s always controversial.�
A key point of disagreement is the 3rd District, in east Alabama. U.S. Rep. Bob Riley, R-Ashland, is giving up that seat to run for governor. Some Democrats want to change the district enough to ensure a Democrat will win.
Others, including Black, said that would have a ripple effect that could hurt Democrats in other districts.
The dispute has national significance because Republicans hold a razor-thin edge in the U.S. House. A shift of six seats would put the Democrats in the majority in Congress.
Redding Pitt, chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party, said it�s hard to get three-fifths of lawmakers to agree, a margin required to end a time-killing filibuster.
�There are a lot of variables from district to district that make it challenging to get a three-fifths vote,� Pitt said. �That�s never easy.�
Pitt said the chances of an agreement are �better than 50-50.�
Marty Connors, chairman of the Republican Party, said some Democrats in the Legislature recognize the value of the incumbents in the congressional delegation, including the Republicans.
�There are a number of Democrats who have a personal relationship with these congressmen,� Connors said. �The state has benefited tremendously from this congressional delegation. For example, highway money. We�re going to get more than our fair share of it.�
The federal judges who would hear the case in Montgomery are all Republican appointees. Pitt said he�s not overly concerned about that.
�They�re not sitting on the bench in a partisan capacity. I do think we would be better off if the Legislature did it,� Pitt said.
Gray said the Democrats had the potential to make significant gains.
�We might have been able to pick up two more seats if they had any real passion and commitment,� Gray said.
State lawmakers likely will decide Tuesday whether to try to redraw Alabama's seven congressional districts, maybe creating another Democratic-leaning district, or leave the task to three Republican-appointed judges, legislative leaders say.
The issue has national importance. A shift of just six seats in the 435-member U.S. House of Representatives could shift control from Republicans to Democrats.
Alabama now has five Republicans and two Democrats in the U.S. House. But U.S. Rep. Bob Riley, R-Ashland, who holds the 3rd District seat in east Alabama, is running for governor instead of re-election this year.
Many Democrats, led by state Rep. Ken Guin, D-Carbon Hill, are pushing hard for the Legislature to redraw congressional districts by Jan. 28 and create a Democratic-leaning 3rd District. Democrats control the state Senate and House.
Guin's plan would remove St. Clair County from the 3rd District and add Cherokee County and parts of Montgomery County.
He said his proposed 3rd District would be 60.9 percent Democratic, based on results from the presidential race in 2000 and key statewide races in 1998. The district now is about 50 percent Democratic.
Republican lawmakers are dragging their feet, trying to stop the Legislature from drawing new congressional districts to reflect population shifts since 1990.
Instead, they want a panel of three Republican-appointed federal judges to redraw the lines. All three, district judges Ira DeMent and Harold Albritton of Montgomery and appeals judge Stanley Birch of Atlanta, were appointed by former President George Bush.
The three judges plan to meet in Montgomery on Jan. 28 to start hearing a lawsuit on congressional redistricting.
Guin and other state lawmakers say that unless they can pass their own redistricting plan by that date, the issue will be in the judges' hands.
State Sen. Steve French, R-Mountain Brook said he would much rather have the judges draw congressional boundaries than Guin and other Democrats in the Alabama House.
"It's certainly probably better news than having a Democrat-dominated Legislature do what the House is trying to do, which is trying to determine the outcome of an election by how you draw the lines," French said.
State Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Anniston, who plans to run for Congress from the 3rd District this year, said he also wants the judges to redraw the districts.
"I have every confidence that the federal court will be very fair in the drawing of the plan," Rogers said.
Sen. Phil Poole, D-Moundville, said he fears the three-judge panel would draw at least five and maybe six Republican-leaning districts. He noted that federal judges based in Mobile drew the current congressional lines.
Speaker Seth Hammett, D-Andalusia, leader of the Alabama House, said he set Tuesday as the deadline for legislators to decide whether they can agree on and pass a redistricting plan.
"If we can't agree in the next several days, we're never going to agree," Hammett said. "There's no reason to drag it out."
Guin says he's got the votes he needs in the Alabama House to pass his redistricting plan. But so far it has gone nowhere in the Senate.
Most senators for months have favored a redistricting plan drawn by Sen. Jeff Enfinger, D-Huntsville, which would keep Alabama's congressional districts relatively unchanged.
Enfinger said he feared that making the 3rd District heavily Democratic would hurt Democrats' chances of reclaiming the 2nd District in southeast Alabama and the 4th District in north Alabama once the Republicans now holding those seats, Terry Everett of Enterprise and Robert Aderholt of Haleyville, leave office.
Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, said he figured there's a 50-50 chance senators and House members will agree on a compromise plan this week.
"Very serious negotiations are taking place between the House
and the Senate," Barron said.