By Steve Flowers
Being elected to Congress is like having a guaranteed job for as long as you want. They serve two year terms and the reelection rate is 96%. All you have to do is vote the party line and not commit murder and you are there for life. The path to reelection to most political offices is to have money and name identification and this is especially true in Congressional races.
All seven of our congressmen are considered in safe seats. We have six Republicans and one lone Democrat in our Alabama delegation to the Potomac. The districts as currently drawn are designed for six Republicans and one Democrat.
A three judge federal panel made up of two Republicans appointed judges and one Democrat appointee judge made the decision over two years ago that Alabama should have a second Black Democratic seat. They hung their hat and robe on the fact that one Black Democratic seat is not sufficient in Alabama given that one seat comprises only 14% of the black population and Alabama has a 27% Black population. Thus, Black Democrats should have two rather than one Democratic seat in the Heart of Dixie. This decision has been upheld by none other than the United States Supreme Court. Therefore, folks, it is about to happen.
My prediction over a year ago was that the Courts or their appointed cartographer will draw a second minority district. I further continue with my prognosis that the Court will act very soon, probably within the next few weeks, to ignore the legislature’s partisan plan in favor of the Milligan/Plaintiffs Plan. The result will be the new Congressional lines for the next decade.
The Milligan/Plaintiffs Plan is perfectly drawn and expertly designed to comply with the Court’s decree. This Plan creates a second minority district centered around all of Montgomery, the Black Belt, and the Black voters in Mobile. The new second minority district will appropriately be Alabama District 2.
The old Second District that Republican Barry Moore sits in will be dissolved. The Whites in the five Wiregrass counties will be sent to the Mobile/Baldwin Republican district held by Jerry Carl.
Under the Milligan/Plaintiffs Plan, Congresswoman Terri Sewell’s district is beautifully drawn for her. It is essentially the same as her current district. It will be 55% Black.
The new Second District will be 50% Black. The Republicans will contest this new district and may prevail. However, the odds favor a Black Democrat. My guess is when the dust settles in November 2024, Alabama’s Congressional makeup will be five Republicans and two Democrats.
This change has been brewing for over a decade. Black voters have argued that having a Black population of 27% calls for two seats under the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Finally, after the 2020 census, Black plaintiffs sought relief from our federal courts. It was clear that the growth in the Black population in the Montgomery area would allow for a congruent, clearly defined second minority district. When you include Montgomery with the 12 rural overwhelmingly Black and Black Belt counties and draw in most of the Black voters in Mobile, it became possible.
The three judge panel agreed and gave the state a two year reprieve because the 2022 elections based on the 2020 census were already ongoing. You could tell from the original decision to stay the case due to the timing of the 2022 elections that the Supreme Court was interested in revisiting this Alabama scenario. They did and they ruled and sent it back to the three Alabama judges to uphold. The three judge panel is going to rule on the final district lines any day now.
The lines that the Judges deliver to Alabama soon will favor a second minority district for our state. This Supreme Court case is far reaching. It will also change the partisan makeup of other Southern states like Louisiana, Georgia, and North Carolina. The Supreme Court knew what they were doing. They knew they were using Alabama as a guinea pig and plowing new ground in the South under the Voting Rights Act.
Our Alabama Congressional delegation is looking at a shakeup in 2024. However, it will not affect our power and influence in the U.S. House. Our three Republican powers in Congress, Robert Aderholt, Mike Rogers, and Gary Palmer, will be unaffected, and our two Republican newcomers, Jerry Carl and Dale Strong, will have enhanced Republican districts. Terri Sewell will be entrenched as a Democratic leader in the House.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.