Alabama Legislature to meet Thursday to discuss proposed legislative maps

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The Alabama Legislature reconvenes Thursday afternoon to discuss four proposed legislative maps that have already raised questions from some lawmakers.

The maps were approved by the Legislative Committee on Reapportionment on Tuesday. Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, said lawmakers had their first look at the maps the day before and the public had likely not seen the maps “unless they were following him on Twitter,” as England posted the maps on his social media pages.

A motion by Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, to delay the vote was tabled.

Co-chairman Chris Pringle said lawmakers will “have time in both the House standing committee and the Senate standing committee and the floor of the House and the floor of the Senate to fully vet and look at these bills.”

Rep. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, questioned the single-black majority Congressional district and said he plans to introduce a map that gives the state two. At issue is District 7, which Singleton said was called “the most gerrymandered in the state,” by the Supreme Court.

“We can get two majority districts out of this,” Singleton said to the committee. “It’s like we just drew over the same lines and we didn’t even to try come up with anything else different.”

Singleton and Rep. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, and four citizens have filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Northern Alabama accusing the state of “gerrymandering” the 7th District which includes Birmingham.

The lawsuit accuses the state of “weakening minorities’ voting influence throughout the state” by putting them into a district that runs from Birmingham to Montgomery.”

England also asked the committee if the maps under consideration meet the requirements of the Voting Rights Act.

Pringle said an attorney hired by the committee assured them the Voting Rights Acts’ requirements were met, even though a racial polarization study was not completed.

“If you didn’t do a racial polarization study, you don’t know how it (the Voting Rights Act) applies,” England said.

Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, blamed the delays in mapping on the late receipt of U.S. Census data, which was stalled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lawmakers had a short amount of time to do what normally is done in two years, according to McClendon.

Rep. Sam Jones, D-Mobile, did not accept that explanation.

“We cannot disregard transparency based on urgency,” Jones said.

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