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Smitherman: Final redistricting map still undecided

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Within a matter of weeks, the Alabama Legislature will have to approve a new congressional district map following the Supreme Court ruling that deemed the map lawmakers approved in 2021 to likely be a violation of the Voting Rights Act.

And while lawmakers are having those discussions right now as to which map to move forward with, at least one member of the committee tasked with redrawing the state’s congressional districts believes that decision is far from settled.

One of the 22 members of the Legislative Committee on Reapportionment, Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, spoke on the redistricting process on Alabama Public Television’s Capitol Journal Friday, and suggested that there were still a number of different ways the process could pan out.

During the first public hearing on the redistricting process, the committee largely looked at map proposals from two different parties; the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case that was the impetus for the state being required to redraw its maps, and maps proposed by Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, and Smitherman. 

One map proposed by the plaintiffs, known as the remedial map, would create two majority-Black districts, whereas what was deemed the Singleton map would create no majority-Black districts, but split less counties.

The Singleton map also avoids splitting up districts based on ethnicity, something, Smitherman argued, could pose a problem for the courts.

“We don’t want to send a map up there that’s going to be flawed to the point where the courts are going to reject it and then apply their own solution to it, that’s the one thing we don’t want to do,” Smitherman said.

“It is (tough) for some people, but if you look at the maps that we’ve drawn, all three of our maps take into consideration whole counties and that you don’t have gerrymandering. And actually, one of the maps out of the three that we presented has zero deviation. So it can be done, we’ve shown that it can be done.”

Watch Smitherman’s interview here:

While the current debate has largely revolved around choosing between the plaintiff’s maps and the Singleton maps, Smitherman said those weren’t necessarily the only options.

“I think it’s always a possibility that the committee can go and put their own map together; they’re not limited to where the committee itself can’t draw a map to present,” Smitherman said. “I think the criteria though is going to be whether or not it meets those requirements, and it does it in the best manner.”

During the public hearing, Smitherman argued strongly to Alabama Daily News in favor of the Singleton maps, as did civil rights attorney James Blacksher, who both argued that splitting districts along racial lines could cause a problem when held up to judicial scrutiny.

Evan Milligan, the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case, however, thought differently, as did the vast majority of those at the public hearing who voiced support for the maps proposed by the plaintiffs. Milligan argued that their proposals were more directly in line with what the Supreme Court ultimately wants out of the case, which is to adopt maps that don’t lump a majority of Black voters into a single district.

In 2021, lawmakers also redrew the state’s Senate and House districts. Smitherman, who has been involved in previous successful challenges to State House districts, didn’t rule out another prior to 2026 elections. Using his home county as an example, he said Jefferson County could be divided less by having six Senate districts — three minority and three majority — rather than the current seven.

“I like our local delegation, I really do,” Smitherman said. “But in terms of the maps, you could do that. And there are several areas of the state where you can do that as well.”

“…You’re going to see more opportunity districts I think being challenged to where you see that taking place more in the Legislature,” he said.

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