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Lawsuit filed to create two potentially winnable Black Congressional Districts in Alabama

As the Alabama Legislature begins a special session later this week on redistricting Congressional, Legislative and State School Board districts, two State Senators, Bobby Singleton and Rodger Smitherman, and some individual voters have filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s current congressional districts. In the lawsuit, they say the districts are “racially gerrymandered” and limit Black voters’ influence in all but one congressional district.
The Alabama Legislature is required to redistrict the state in response to the 2020 U. S. Census official numbers and create the boundaries for the seven Congressional districts, as well as Legislative and School Board Districts, with close to the same population numbers as possible.
Alabama currently has one majority-minority congressional district represented by U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, the lone Democrat and only Black member of Alabama’s congressional district. The lawsuit argues Alabama should have a congressional map that would “afford African Americans an opportunity to elect candidates of their choice in at least two districts.”
“Alabama’s current Congressional redistricting plan, enacted in 2011 is malapportioned and racially gerrymandered, packing black voters in a single majority-black Congressional district,” the lawsuit states. The lawsuit argues that legislators packed as “many minorities as possible” into the congressional district that stretches from Birmingham through west Alabama and into Montgomery — “thereby weakening minorities’ voting influence throughout the state.”
The suit seeks to avoid splitting counties and return to the “redistricting principle of drawing its Congressional districts with whole counties.”
“By returning to Alabama’s traditional redistricting principle of aggregating whole counties, Alabama can remedy the existing racial gerrymander, restore a measure of rationality and fairness to Alabama’s Congressional redistricting process, and afford African Americans an opportunity to elect candidates of their choice in at least two districts,” the lawsuit states. 
As the map suggests, District 7 would be redrawn to include all of Jefferson County and Bibb, Perry and Hale counties. District 6 would include all of Tuscaloosa County and wind south and east through the Black Belt, taking in Pickens, Greene, Sumter, Choctaw Washington, Clarke, Marengo, Monroe, Wilcox, Conecuh, Dallas Lowndes, Butler, Crenshaw, Montgomery, Macon and Bullock. This district would include the cities of Tuscaloosa, Montgomery and Selma and most of the rural Black Belt counties.
A statistical analysis based on the 2020 Census, shows the new District 6 with 42.3% Black population and that Biden received 56.2% of the vote in the 2020 Presidential election in this area. For the new District 7, the Black population is 49.91% and Biden received 54.4% of the vote in the 2020 Presidential election in these counties.
This analysis suggests that a Black Democratic candidate could win in both of these newly suggested districts by getting the support of Black voters and white Democratic voters, who are inclined to vote for more progressive candidates.
“We just want to make sure there is fair representation, equal representation,” Singleton said in an interview.  While the population of Alabama is 26% Black— and elected bodies such as the Legislature mirror that representation— the congressional delegation is 14% Black.
Congresswomen Terri Sewell has not weighed in with a statement of support of this new plan to create two potentially winnable districts for Black Democrats in Alabama.
The Republican controlled Legislature is not likely to adopt this new plan because it will enable the election of an additional Democratic member of the state’s congressional delegation. The Legislature is most likely to adjust the current district lines to reflect population changes rather than adopt a more progressive and equitable redistricting plan, like the one proposed in the lawsuit.
This article compiled with portions of an earlier Associated Press story by Kim Chandler

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