Over a year-and-a-half ago, the nation’s high court said Senate Minority Leader Quinton Ross’ Montgomery district might have to be redrawn. Ross, along with other legislators, is still waiting for a final decision. “There hasn’t been a final decision made, but we’re hopeful they’ll decide on a remedy for the issue,” Ross, a Democrat, said in a recent interview. The case — which could affect other districts and shake up the 2018 elections for the Alabama Legislature — remains in the hands of a three-judge panel. “We didn’t expect it to take this long,” said James Blacksher, an attorney for the plaintiffs, in a recent interview. “We don’t know why it has taken so long. Hopefully, we’ll have a decision soon.” The Republican-controlled Legislature passed new legislative district maps in 2012 after a contentious special session, using a strict standard not allowing House and Senate districts to go above or below 1 percent of their ideal population. Many GOP-controlled legislatures in the South used a similarly strict standard, which tended to separate black and white voters.
Two groups – the Legislative Black Caucus and the Alabama Democratic Conference – sued over the maps later that year. The plaintiffs argued that the mapmakers deliberately moved black voters, who tend to vote Democratic, into a handful of districts to minimize their ability to form coalitions with like-minded white voters, and muted their voices in the political process. Critics, including Ross, refer to the practice as “packing and stacking.”
Republicans said they were following what were then the requirements of the Voting Rights Act to maintain percentages of minority voters in individual districts, noting many majority-black districts lost a significant amount of population between 2000 and 2010. Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, who helped draw the maps while a member of the House of Representatives, said he believed they were fair.
“About 25 percent of our population is black,” he said. “About 25 percent of our legislators are black. Where do you go from there? That certainly seems reasonable to me.”