Ivey plans special session in October on redistricting
Editors Note UPDATES: This version adds background and comment from the ACLU Alabama.
By KIM CHANDLER
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) _ Alabama lawmakers will gather later this month to draw new legislative and congressional district lines, a process undertaken every 10 years after census numbers are released, Gov. Kay Ivey announced Thursday.
The special session will begin Oct. 28, Ivey wrote in a letter to lawmakers. In the letter, Ivey praised the effort to boost census participation. The numbers allowed Alabama to maintain seven congressional seats instead of losing a seat as state officials had feared.
Lawmakers will draw new district lines for congressional districts, the Alabama Legislature and the state school board. District lines will shift to accommodate large population growth in, and around, areas of Baldwin County, Huntsville, Tuscaloosa and Auburn while other areas of the state saw stagnant or declining population growth.
Sen. Jim McClendon, the co-chairman of the reapportionment committee, said they are still working on the proposed maps as they try to accommodate both population changes and requests from legislators.
``Legislators want the same district they had that elected them,'' McClendon said, adding that is not always possible because of court orders and requirements on drawing lines. ``When we make those changes there is always resistance,'' he said.
As Alabama lawmakers prepare to draw new maps, a new lawsuit contends the current congressional districts are ``racially gerrymandered'' to limit Black voters' influence in all but one district.
Alabama currently has one majority-minority district represented by U. . Rep. Terri Sewell, the lone Democrat and only Black member of Alabama's congressional district. Black people make up more than 25% of the state's population and the lawsuit argues that Alabama should have a congressional map that would ``afford African Americans an opportunity to elect candidates of their choice in at least two districts.''
The lawsuit was filed by two state senators and four voters.
JaTaune Bosby, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, said this will be the first full redistricting process since a key 2013 Supreme Court decision. The ruling tossed out a ``pre-clearance'' provision that required officials in more than a dozen, mostly Southern states to receive federal approval before making changes to the voting process.
Bosby said it will be up to the Legislature to adhere to federal law not only after the maps are drawn but throughout the entire process _ and the ACLU will be watching their work.
``As the Census data confirms, all of the state's growth over the past decade is attributable to growth in communities of color, and the new maps must adequately reflect that reality without using improper practices to dilute the voting power of Black Alabamians,'' Bosby said.
Alabama's legislative district lines approved after the 2010 Census resulted in a long-running legal battle. A three-judge panel in 2017 ordered Alabama to redraw 12 of the state's 140 legislative districts after finding lawmakers had overly relied on race in drawing the lines.
By The Associated Press, Copyright 2019