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Here’s how Alabama’s congressional districts could change with newly adopted map

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – After three public hearings, the legislative redistricting committee on Monday approved a congressional district map proposal that could produce significant changes to the political landscape in Alabama were it ultimately to be adopted by the full Legislature.

In a vote of 14-6 along party lines, the committee voted to approve what was called the Communities of Interest plan, a proposal endorsed by the committee’s co-chairs, Rep. Chris Pringle, R-Mobile, and Sen. Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro. 

The map’s approval raised objections during Monday’s final redistricting committee meeting given that it was not shared with committee members until Friday evening, and the source of the map being the two co-chairs was also not disclosed until just before members were set to vote on it. 

Democratic members of the committee further scrutinized the process over the lack of auxiliary data to go along with the maps, which Pringle said would be provided either Monday night or Tuesday morning.

Rep. Chris Pringle listens to comments from Rep. Sam Jones during a redistricting committee meeting.

“There was no criteria, guidelines, or anything suggested to us as to how (map proposals) made the cut,” Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, a member of the committee, told Alabama Daily News. “I first saw (the Communities of Interest plan) on Friday, but didn’t know it was actually Pringle’s (until the vote). I didn’t know any of these maps mattered until this morning.”

Pringle was also involved in the design of the map lawmakers approved in 2021, dubbed the Pringle Congressional Plan 1, the same map that was the impetus for the state being ordered to approve a new map after it was ruled to be a likely violation of the Voting Rights Act.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court found that the state’s current districts are discriminatory in effect based on there being only one Black-majority district despite 27% of the state’s population being Black, enough to constitute two Black-majority districts.

Community of Interest Plan

While the Community of Interest plan only creates one Black-majority district – District 7, which encompasses the Black Belt region – Pringle argued that based on past election data, there would be an additional district – District 2, the southeast region of the state – with enough Black and Democratic voters to provide an opportunity for Black-preferred candidates to win elections.

“There are districts that can be drawn that may not be majority (Black), but the performance analysis will prove they in fact can elect a Democrat or a Republican,” Pringle said. “They’re opportunity districts.”

A voting data report, shared on social media by England on Monday, shows that the proposed 2nd District under the Communities of Interest plan have twice voted for Democratic candidates and twice for Republican candidates in the 2020 and 2018 election cycles.

While the legislature could opt to move forward with an alternative map, it’s entirely possible – if not likely – that the Community of Interest plan will be adopted by lawmakers.

Here’s how that could change the state compared to the congressional districts as they stand today.

District 1

Encompassing the southwest gulf region of the state, District 1 would lose both Washington and Monroe counties to the north, but spread eastward along the Florida line to Covington County. The Black population would also shrink from 26% to 25%.

District 2

District 2, which encompasses the southeast portion of the state, would expand significantly westward all the way to Dallas County. As it exists today, District 2 splits Montgomery County, leaving most of the city of Montgomery – along with its high Black population – lumped in with District 7. The Community of Interest plan would instead make Montgomery County whole, and increase the district’s Black population from 30% to 42.5%, creating what Pringle considered to be a second opportunity district for Black voters.

District 3

District 3, encompassing the east-central portion of the state, would lose both Russell and Macon counties in the Community of Interest plan, as well most of of Chilton County, but gain Elmore County. The Black population would also shrink from 25% to 21.3%.

Both Districts 4 and 5 would remain unchanged in the proposal.

District 6

District 6 in central Alabama, as proposed, would lose more of Jefferson County, though gain a greater portion of Chilton County, as well as the entirety of Autauga County. The Black population would also shrink from 19% to 15%.

District 7

District 7, the Black Belt region and perhaps the most discussed of Alabama’s seven districts, would also see its Black population shrink, though still maintain a majority. Today, District 7 includes a portion of Montgomery County – the city proper. The Community of Interest plan would see District 7 lose Montgomery County, as well as Lowndes and Dallas counties, but gain Washington and Monroe counties to the south, as well as a portion of Conecuh County.

‘I almost welcome this map’

Democratic lawmakers largely condemned the map, as well as the process in which it was adopted, citing what they considered to be a lack of transparency and accountability.

Rep. Sam Jones, D-Mobile, said he felt the Community of Interest plan was “much of the same” when compared to the existing congressional map, and that he felt it was “a great possibility” that the courts will ultimately rule against it, assigning a special master to draw a new map in the legislature’s stead.

Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, also unhappy with the Community of Interest plan, suggested that the map was designed to protect Republican U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer, who represents District 6.

Despite her feelings toward the proposal, Givan said she (almost) preferred the map compared to other maps her Republican colleagues may have supported.

“I almost welcome this map, because with this map being presented as is, it will certainly give cause for the special master to draw the lines,” she said. “With this map, this gives us to the special master drawing a map, I feel confident.”

England said he saw the writing on the wall, and that there was nothing Democrats could do at this point to prevent lawmakers from ultimately adopting Pringle and Livingston’s Communities of Interest plan.

“If this committee was any indication about how this is going, it’s going to be along party lines, it’s going to be along racial lines; that train’s already left the station,” England told ADN. “It’s unfortunate that the only map that was not vetted by the public, didn’t see any public scrutiny was the one we voted out today.”

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