Alongside the andouille gumbo, the crab-and-shrimp bisque and a succulent smoked pork shoulder, there was an endangered species featured at this town’s recent Taste of the South picnic. Her name is Susan Smith, and she is a white Democrat seeking election to the Alabama Senate. Such creatures used to rule the state, but only four remain among Alabama’s 35 senators. Two of them decided not to compete in Tuesday’s election after the Republican super-majority in the legislature redrew boundaries to make their districts more hospitable to GOP candidates. It’s a familiar story in the increasingly Republican South. But the Supreme Court has decided to step into this one and will hear arguments in the matter next week. The justices are being asked to find that, as has happened many times in Alabama’s history, race played an improper role in how the state was reapportioned. But the essence of the allegation is not that Republicans made it too hard for African American candidates to be elected. It’s that they made it too easy.
The challengers said the mapmakers packed African American voters into districts where they already enjoyed a majority, diluting their power elsewhere and easing the way for white Republicans to win everything else.
A three-judge panel that examined the 2012 redistricting process ruled 2 to 1 that the plan enacted by Alabama was constitutional and said the legislature’s intentions were not improper.
The challengers — black elected officials and the Alabama Democratic Conference — alleged that the plans “were the product of a grand Republican strategy to make the Democratic Party the ‘black party’ and the Republican Party the ‘white party,’ ” wrote U.S. Circuit Court Judge William H. Pryor. “The record does not support that theory.”