That’s why it’s no surprise that Alabama’s Republican majority in the Legislature was out to rearrange the state so that it will be able to elect more of its own. Perhaps the best example is in south Alabama, where the GOP remade Senate District 22 to include more of Republican-voting Baldwin County and, in turn, throw out the Democratic senator who currently holds that seat.
However, this year the redistricting is taking on a new, and deeply disturbing, trend. Not only is the GOP drawing lines to benefit itself, it also is drawing lines so that those Democrats who are elected will be black. Gov. Robert Bentley has said he plans to review and will likely sign the redistricting plans the state House and Senate passed early Thursday morning.
We are not suggesting that this is part of a calculated strategy of identifying the parties by the race of their candidates. The establishment of the Alabama GOP as the white man’s party has been coming since the 1960s. But if that is the goal of the Republicans, this year’s redistricting may give them what they want.
Republicans are able to do this because of a series of well-intentioned efforts by the federal government to ensure that minorities are represented in the Legislature, along with efforts by black politicians to ensure they have safe seats in that body. Democrats, who benefited from these efforts, were quick to support the creation of heavily black districts. This led, naturally, to the creation of heavily white districts, which benefited the GOP.
Lost in this process have been the multiracial districts where blacks and whites work together to elect candidates and promote programs. Instead, white voters were drawn into Republican-leaning white-majority districts while black voters were packed into black districts in numbers far beyond what was needed to hold a majority.
While Republicans are increasing the number of black-majority House districts, they are diluting black influence across the state by making it difficult for white Democrats to get elected.
A classic example is Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile, who is black. Her district is 62 percent black. Under the plan proposed by the Republican-dominated reapportionment committee, her district would be 72 percent black.
It also means there will be fewer black voters in districts nearby.
When asked about this, Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, co-chairman of the reapportionment committee, said, “I call that taking care of a good senator to get her re-elected because she has done such a good job.”
If Figures is doing “such a good job,” how often has Dial voted with her and done a “good job,” as well?