Redistricting Spurs Lawsuits Across Nation
By Bob Johnson
Members of the Alabama state legistlature are the latest to file a lawsuit challenging the boundaries of districts that have been redrawn because of changing demographics.
The predominantly black Alabama Democratic Conference and others filed a federal lawsuit Thursday challenging state House and Senate districts that were redrawn earlier this year by the Legislature.
The lawsuit filed Thursday claims legislators drew the districts in a way that caps the number of areas where black candidates have a realistic chance of winning legislative seats. The lawsuit says the districts adopted by the Republican-majority legislature violate the U.S. and Alabama constitutions and the federal Voting Rights Act.
The redistricting plans “constitute racial gerrymandering” and will result in discrimination against minority voters, the lawsuit alleges.
House Speaker Mike Hubbard defended the plans, which have been approved by the U.S. Justice Department. He said the plans were developed after lawmakers sought input from residents across the state.
“Not only was our plan cleared by President Obama’s Justice Department, it also has more majority-minority districts than the reapportionment plan that the Democrats drafted a decade ago,” Hubbard said, referring to districts with a majority of black or minority voters.
ADC chairman Joe Reed says the new district lines limit the number of blacks that can serve in the House and Senate. He says the boundaries prevent blacks and other minorities from forming coalitions to increase their voting power outside of districts where they’ve been bundled.
Another federal court challenge to the redrawn districts was filed earlier by black legislators. A three-judge panel held a hearing in Montgomery earlier this week on that suit.
Hubbard questioned the need for two lawsuits.
“It doesn’t make sense that the Alabama Democratic Conference is rehashing the exact same lawsuit, unless their goal is to spend more taxpayer dollars,” Hubbard said.
Reed said the two lawsuits are different. He said the new lawsuit concentrates on what he called “a concerted effort to prevent blacks from increasing numbers in the Legislature.”
Republican state Rep. Jim McClendon of Springville, who chaired the joint legislative committee that developed the redistricting plans, said he wasn’t surprised by the filing of the new lawsuit.
“I don’t believe it will hold water,” he said.
“I feel we drew fair districts that represent the people of Alabama of all races,” McClendon said.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.