The Alabama House of Representatives on Thursday approved new legislative districts, but only after Democrats were able to delay a vote by having the bill read aloud for 16 hours. Representatives in the GOP-controlled House approved the districts in a 70-30 vote that fell along party lines. Republicans argued the bill fairly corrects problems identified by a federal court with current boundaries. Democrats contended Republicans rammed through a plan aimed at entrenching GOP dominance in the state and minimizing the influence of black voters. Before the vote, Democrats requested for the 539-page bill to be read aloud. The process took 16 hours as the sound of the computerized bill reader filled the chamber for two days. Black lawmakers in the House said they requested the reading in order to make their objections known because Republicans tried to limit floor debate on the plan that is headed back for court review.
“Some people are upset that we used the rules. We have to use the rules because that is all we have. We represent constituencies that have been left behind,” Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery said.
Federal judges in January ordered the GOP-controlled Legislature to redraw lines before the 2018 elections after ruling that GOP lawmakers improperly made race a predominant factor when drawing 12 districts. The ruling came after the Legislative Black Caucus and the Alabama Democratic Conference challenged the districts, arguing African-American voters were “stacked and packed” into designated minority districts to make neighboring districts whiter and more Republican.