Alabama Legislature

Alabama House, Senate GOP Approve Two Separate Congressional Maps

Rep. Chris Pringle, R-Mobile, tapes a proposed congressional district map to a desk during a reapportionment hearing on July 18, 2023. Rep. Jamie Kiel, R-Russellville, extends his hand to hold up the map. (Brian Lyman/Alabama Reflector)

House and Senate Republicans approved two different congressional maps in committees on Tuesday, potentially creating a conflict just days ahead of a deadline to submit proposals to a federal court.

The House State Government committee approved a new state congressional map that creates a majority-Black congressional district in western Alabama and a 42% Black district in the southeastern part of the state.

But a Senate committee Tuesday approved a map that lowers the Black population to 38% in the southeastern district while reducing the Black population in the western district to about 50%.


The state must create a new map that at a minimum gives Black voters in two congressional districts a chance to elect their preferred candidates. The three-judge federal panel that ruled in 2022 that the state’s congressional maps violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act wrote that remedy would be “two districts in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it.”

If the Legislature misses a Friday deadline to submit maps, or if the court deems the submissions unacceptable, a third party known as a special master could draw the maps themselves.

When do we ­­– as a state – get on the right side of history, at least once? When do we do it?

– Rep. Prince Chestnut, D-Selma

Both maps passed on party line votes and over the objections of Democrats, who said the proposals would not meet the federal court’s requirements.

“This map suggests to me that whoever drew it just didn’t want to, you know, choose winners or losers, and they wanted the court to draw a map,” said Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, in Senate committee.

Rep. Chris Pringle, R-Mobile, the chair of the Permanent Legislative Committee on reapportionment, defended the proposals.

“We feel this map complies with Section 2 because it provides minorities the ability to elect a candidate of their choosing,” he said.

Altered Patterns

The House and Senate maps approved by the committees follow the same rough sketch of a “Community of Interest” map approved by the reapportionment committee on Monday. It retains the core of the current 7th congressional district, covering Birmingham and a significant portion of the western Black Belt, with a majority Black voting-age population of 51.55%.

The “Community of Interest” plan, a proposed congressional map, was adopted by a House committee on July 18, 2023. (Alabama Legislature)
The “Community of Interest” plan, a proposed congressional map, was adopted by a House committee on July 18, 2023. (Alabama Legislature)

The map significantly alters the 2nd congressional district in southeast Alabama. It adds Dallas and Lowndes counties, both strongly Democratic, to the district. Autauga and Elmore counties, both strongly Republican. Unlike the current map, Montgomery would be wholly in the district. The district would have a Black voting-age population of 42.45%.

The House committee adopted the map unchanged. But the Senate committee made some significant boundary shifts. Under that proposal, Dallas and Lowndes would go back to the 7th congressional district and Elmore would go back into the 2nd district. The Black voting age population would fall to 38% in the 2nd congressional district, and to 50% in the 7th congressional district.

“This is a community of compact, community of interest plan that applies state traditional principles fairly across the state,” said Sen. Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro, who offered the amendment.

The changes brought criticism from Democratic members of the committee.

“How would you all feel if you all were in the minority?” said Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, D-Mobile. “Would you be trying to get your voices heard and have representation in your respective districts? I’d really like to know how you feel because I don’t know what you fear from us or from the minorities because you are in the majority right now.”

House Democrats voiced concerns that the “Community of Interest” remedial map, introduced by Rep. Chris Pringle, R-Mobile, breaks up the Black Belt region and could potentially dilute Black voting power.

Rep. Prince Chestnut. D-Selma, criticized Pringle’s map for splitting Black Belt counties by putting Dallas and Lowndes county in the 2nd congressional district, which takes in the Wiregrass.

“You’re cracking it at the worst part, which is right through Dallas County and Perry and Wilcox,” he said.

House Democrats support a map brought by the plaintiffs in Allen v. Milligan, which would draw two majority-Black districts encompassing the entire Black Belt.

Chestnut argued that the map’s design, which divides the black community and connects it with eastern Black Belt counties, undermines the court’s intent. He felt that the map would not follow the courts’ order, with 42% representation of black population in the proposed districts.

The “Community of Interest” plan, a proposed congressional map, was adopted by a House committee on July 18, 2023. (Alabama Legislature)

“When do we ­­– as a state – get on the right side of history, at least once?” Chestnut asked. “When do we do it?”

Pringle defended his proposed map, saying it increased the Black population in the 2nd congressional district from about 31% to 42% while reducing the congressional district splits in the Black Belt from three to two.

“They have to be compact and contiguous,” he said. “Communities of interest. That becomes the debate we are having.”

Some Senate Republicans voiced objections to the original Community of Interest map. The proposal split Autauga and Elmore counties into the 6th and 3rd congressional districts, respectively. That splits the city of Prattville, which crosses the boundaries of Elmore and Autauga. The Livingston map would put Prattville in the 6th district.

That had been a point of contention for Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville.

 “So, obviously, I don’t want to split a county but I’m having to. So I think it’s more important in this case, to keep the city of Prattville, a city, a small city together,” he said.

The map passed 11-5, on party lines with the exception, of Sen. Andrew Jones, R-Centre, who voted against the bill.

Jones said he had heard from his constituents that they didn’t like how the districts were drawn. The map splits Etowah County, in Jones’ district, between the 3rd and 4th congressional districts.

“I’m going to have to be a no on this map just simply because I’ve heard from my locals and Etowah County,” he said. “I haven’t looked at the data but I imagined for over 50 years or better they’ve been whole.”

Upcoming Votes

Democrats in the Senate divided over their preferred proposals. Figures supports and plans to sponsor the Milligan map. Singleton and Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, supported a map that would have put Jefferson County, home of Birmingham, in its own congressional district and drawn a 7th district encompassing nearly all of the Black Belt.

House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, D-Huntsville, said the House Democratic caucus supported the Milligan map.

“It’s just like having a candidate running for office,” he said. “I don’t split my support. I’m supporting what I feel satisfies what we need at the time.”

The House and Senate should vote on the maps on Wednesday. With supermajorities in both chambers, the bills are likely to pass, leaving Democrats little option but to build a public record for an anticipating court hearing on the maps scheduled for August 14.

Daniels said that for Democrats, the session was about getting Republicans on the record about “what’s real and what’s not.”

“To name a bill ‘Communities of Interest’ when those are not communities of interest,” he said after the House committee vote Tuesday. “What does Dallas County have in common with Henry County or Houston County? There is no real commonality there, and so it’s unfortunate that yet again, we’re wasting taxpayers’ dollars dealing with an issue that should have been resolved before.”

Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, said that history has indicated that African Americans operate at a disadvantage “when the numbers are stacked against them.” He felt that Pringle’s proposed map “rarely, if ever,” gives a Black candidate or a black candidate of choice an opportunity to win.

He referenced a comment made by Pringle during the committee hearing – that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again,” in reference to computer simulations of different redistricting models.

He said that the state, in fact, has been doing the same thing repeatedly.

“At this point, the maps that had been presented don’t even give African Americans the opportunity to elect the candidate of choice, and the maps that have been presented that in fact do that, have been rejected.” England said. “I think we’re getting to the point where the outcome is decided, and inevitably somebody else is going to be drawing this.”


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