MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A white Democratic state representative says he expects legislative districts designed by Republicans will make it harder for him and other white Alabama Democrats to get re-elected.
"It's about knocking out white Democrats in the redistricting process," Rep. Joe Hubbard, D-Montgomery, said Monday.
The Republican co-chairmen of the Legislature's Committee on Reapportionment plan to unveil their proposed House and Senate districts Wednesday. The proposals are in preparation for a special session next week to approve new districts that will be used in the 2014 election.
The Senate co-chairman, Republican Gerald Dial of Lineville, said he's designed Senate districts that don't pit any incumbents against each other. The House co-chairman, Republican Jim McClendon of Springville, said he won't release any details of his House plan until Wednesday.
Hubbard said several Republicans have already told him that McClendon's plan will move him into the district represented by a black Democrat, Rep. John Knight of Montgomery. Hubbard's house is only one block from Knight's current district. Based on his discussions with Republicans, Hubbard predicted the same thing will happen to some other white Democratic representatives or their districts will be redesigned to make re-election difficult.
He said some Republican legislators told him that his district could be protected if he switched parties, but he refused.
McClendon isn't talking specifics of his plan, but he said many districts represented by black legislators must be enlarged because they fall below the desired population.
Federal law requires the Legislature to redraw its districts after every census to make them nearly equal in population. Republican legislators are controlling the process for the first time because they won a majority in the 2010 legislative elections. The plans that debut Wednesday will be a starting point for the Legislature's special session on redistricting, which starts May 14.
Dial said he will recommend a Senate plan that does not put any incumbent in a district with another incumbent. He said his plan also keeps eight of the 35 Senate districts with a majority black population, although each of the districts had to be expanded geographically because they were below the desired population.
"I've worked with the minority senators to give them what they wanted me to," he said.
McClendon said that's also been his goal in the House, where 27 of the 105 districts have a majority of black residents. McClendon noted that Alabama is covered by the 1965 Voting Rights Act. He said reducing the number of majority black legislative districts would raise red flags at the U.S. Justice Department, which has the power to approve or reject Alabama's plan.
When the Legislature goes into special session May 14, the House will approve House districts and send them to the Senate for approval. The Senate, likewise, will approve Senate districts and send them to the House for approval.
Dial and McClendon said legislative leaders have an informal agreement that the Senate won't mess with the House's plan and the House won't alter the Senate's plan.
The Legislature's special session on new legislative districts falls near the end of the Legislature's regular session for state budgets and other issues. If the schedule laid out by the legislative leaders works, the Legislature will wrap up its special session May 18 and then return to Montgomery on May 21 for the final day of its regular session.