Alabama
Congressional BoundariesDrawn by legislature
State BoundariesDrawn by legislature
Governor's PartyRepublican
Legislative PartyRepublican

Census-related Redistricting Timeline Delays

Congressional

Alert:
High

State Legislative

Alert:
High

Process

State Legislature

Alabama's state legislative and congressional district lines are drawn by the Legislature by ordinary statute, and are subject to the Governor's veto. The Legislature can override vetoes with a simple majority vote in each chamber.

Criteria

In addition to the federal requirements of one person, one vote and the Voting Rights Act, Alabama’s state constitution (Art. IX, § 200) requires that state senate districts be contiguous and avoid county splits. In May 2011, the Reapportionment Committee adopted additional guidelines for the cycle which further required that districts be compact and preserve communities of interest. Protection of incumbents is permitted.

Public Input

While Alabama law does not require public hearings, the legislative Reapportionment Committee held hearings throughout the state in May 2011. Moreover, the Committee guidelines allowed any citizen or group to present their own map, in accordance with certain procedures outlined here. It is probable that there will be similar opportunities for public input in 2021.

2011 Cycle

In the 2011 redistricting cycle, Alabama faced several legal challenges:

  • In Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama (2015), the Supreme Court rejected the district court ruling that upheld Alabama’s 2011 redistricting maps, which were motivated by race. On remand, a three-judge panel in Alabama found 12 state districts to be unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. 
  • In Chestnut v. Merrill, plaintiffs filed a lawsuit under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, challenging Alabama's 1st, 2nd, and 3rd congressional districts as cracking minority voters, and the 7th congressional district as packing minority voters. However, a federal district court declared the case moot in March 2020, citing lack of jurisdiction and concerns with separation of powers.

Issues

Pitfalls

Alabama has a guaranteed trifecta in 2021, as the Republican Party controls both chambers of the Legislature and the Governorship. Single-party control of the redistricting process increases the risk of partisan and racial gerrymandering. 

Additionally, this will be Alabama’s first cycle without the protections of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which was struck down in the 2013 Supreme Court case Shelby County v. Holder. In the absence of preclearance requirements to protect communities of color, and given the recent history of gerrymandering in Alabama, observers should closely monitor every step of the redistricting process to ensure fair treatment for all.

Potential Reform

Actions

Participate in the Legislature’s public input process:

  • Obtain Alabama redistricting data from OpenPrecincts.
  • Start to plan out what defines your community – whether it’s a shared economic interest, school districts, or other social or other cultural, historical, or economic interests – and how that can be represented on a map. This will come in handy once the Legislature starts collecting feedback.
  • Use software tools such as Dave's Redistricting App and Districtr to draw district maps showing either (a) what a fair map would look like, or (b) where the community you believe should be better represented is located.

Read the Common Cause Activist Handbook on Redistricting Reform to learn about what reforms have been successful in the past, and what steps to take to enact reform in the future.

Contacts

League of Women Voters of Alabama

Alabama Voting Rights Project

Sources

All About Redistricting

NCSL

Ballotpedia