Alabama Democratic Conference files lawsuit against redistricting

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Alabama Democratic Conference chairman Joe Reed speaks to reporters on Dec. 13, 2012. (Montgomery Advertiser, Brian Lyman)

The Alabama Democratic Conference Thursday filed a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn the state’s redistricting maps, charging they were drawn with the intent of minimizing minority participation in the voting process.

The allegations raised in the complaint — filed against Gov. Robert Bentley and Secretary of State Beth Chapman — are similar to those raised by the Black Legislative Caucus, which challenged the new maps in a suit filed last August.   That suit is pending before a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The maps, approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature last May, were approved by the U.S. Justice Department in October.  The 1965 Voting Rights Act requires areas with a history of discrimination against minority voters to submit their redistricting maps to DOJ for approval.

However, ADC chairman Joe Reed said the preclearance was “nothing to be proud of.”

“I think this Justice Department is the worst it’s ever been since the law passed,” he said.

Jennifer Ardis, a spokeswoman for Bentley, and Emily Thompson, Deputy Secretary of State, both said their offices had not seen the lawsuit and did not have any comment on it.

Like the Black Legislative Caucus, the ADC suit alleges the redistricting maps violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibit voting practices that discriminate against minority groups.  Both suits accuse the new redistricting maps of being racially discriminatory; of diluting African-American voting strength and of using an unnecessarily strict standard for redrawing maps.   The ADC suit further argues the maps were drawn to “cap” the number of African-American lawmakers in the Legislature.

Reed cited District 73, currently represented by Rep. Joe Hubbard, D-Montgomery, who is white.  The district was moved to Shelby County in the current map.

“In District 73, the black population was growing,” Reed said.  ”The Legislature said, ‘We don’t want this district becoming black,’ so they eliminated it.”

A number of Montgomery-area majority minority districts lost population between 2000 and 2010; those who drew the maps argued they were forced to draw the districts in order to recover population there.

– posted by Brian Lyman

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