There don’t seem to be any salamanders on Alabama’s proposed reapportionment maps this year, but a close look does seem to reveal some elephant footprints. With Republicans controlling both houses of the Legislature and the governor’s office, it’s to be expected that the state GOP would try to structure the realignment in a way that would favor its candidates in the future, and that seems evident.
The proposal calls for Talladega County, for example, to be carved into four Senate districts for the 2014 election. Currently the entire county is served by one senator, Jerry Fielding, a Democrat from Sylacauga. He also serves all of Coosa County, most of Elmore County, and small portion of Calhoun County, the area that now makes up District 11.
In the next election, candidates for that district will travel in a giant curve that includes southern Shelby County, northern St. Clair County and a backwards “C” section through Talladega County that connects them.
Shelby and St. Clair tend to vote more heavily Republican than Talladega, which may make it tougher for a Democrat to win the district next time.
Out of Alabama’s 35 Senate districts, 22 seats are currently held by Republicans.
Sen. Gerald Dial of Clay County, co-chair of the Reapportionment Committee, is responsible for the proposed Senate map expected to be taken up in a special session as soon as the regular session ends. (Links related to reapportionment, including links to the maps, are online at http://www.legislature.state.al.us/reapportionment/reap.html.)
The last time Reapportionment came around, Dial’s district saw big changes, and he was not at all happy about it. In 2001, he told the Cherokee County Herald, “This plan will cause a great deal of confusion and frustration on the local level, especially by the city and county officials, who will now have to work with a larger number of elected representatives. ...”
Now Dial says most counties are split between two or three Senate districts, sometimes four or five, and customarily one senator will become the unofficial chairman to coordinate meetings with cities and counties to work on legislative concerns for their areas.
Dial says the Justice Department won’t approve regression of any of the state’s eight majority black districts, so you start with those districts and work out from there.
The law requires district lines to be redrawn to reflect shifts in population, and we understand it’s just in the nature of politics to redraw them to benefit the party in power. To the victors go the spoils.