By KIM CHANDLER Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Republican-led committees in the Alabama Legislature advanced new congressional, legislative and school board districts on Friday as lawmakers try to get new maps in place before the 2022.
The House State Government Committee voted along party lines to approve new lines for the state’s seven congressional districts and 105 districts in the Alabama House of Representatives. Democrats, who voted against the plans, raised concerns that the proposed lines don’t reflect a state that has grown more diverse, and would pack their supporters into a single congressional district.
While the plan passed with GOP support, several Republicans expressed concern that their legislative districts had been sacrificed for other party priorities.
The maps, along with Alabama Senate and Board of Education districts, are in line for votes Monday by the full Alabama House of Representatives and Alabama Senate.
Democrats have argued that Alabama, whose population is about 26% Black, should have a second congressional district with a significant African-American or minority population. The seven-member delegation has for decades included a single African American, elected from the only district with a majority Black population. The district is now represented by Rep. Terri Sewell, the only Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation.
“I think there was another opportunity to draw the maps in another way. And we could have had at least another congressional district where minorities could have weighed in and had a voice,” Democratic state Rep. Kelvin Lawrence of Hayneville said.
The Republican-supported plan keeps Sewell’s District 7 with a population that is 54% Black.
Republican Rep. Chris Pringle, who served as co-chair of the redistricting committee, said the committee complied with legal guidelines in drawing the maps.
He argued having two districts, where African Americans were a significant portion of the population but under 50%, could do the opposite of what Democrats want by making them more competitive for Republicans.
Some Republicans aren’t happy about the proposed maps either.
Republican Rep. Mike Ball argued the rapidly growing Madison County area, centered in Huntsville, should have been given another House district. Ball said the House districts there were packed with the maximum allowed number of people and that the population disparity with other districts will only grow over the next 10 years.
“We should have picked up another district,” Ball said.
Josh Pendergrass, a former spokesman for Gov. Kay Ivey who is challenging a sitting House member in the upcoming GOP primary, said he has been drawn out of the district with the lines cutting within a few streets of his home.
Republican Rep. Charlotte Meadows said her Montgomery district had been “completely upended,” with many voters being shifted elsewhere. She said was a disservice to the people who live there.
“It’s not about Black and white. It’s not really about Democrat and Republican. It’s about keeping Montgomery’s core district 74 the same,” Meadows said.
Pringle said they had to adjust lines for changing demographics across the state while following the law and court rulings and rushing to get the maps ready in time for next year’s elections after getting Census numbers late.
“I told the caucus the other day, my name is Chris Pringle, it’s not Kris Kringle … I can’t give them everything they want,” Pringle said.
He noted that the maps will almost certainly be litigated in court.
“This doesn’t end when the governor signs the bill,” Pringle said. “I will be testifying in court for months and years probably.”