Currently, Talladega County is represented by one senator, Jerry Fielding, D-Sylacauga, and three representatives, Barbara Boyd, D-Anniston, Steve Hurst, R-Munford and Ron Johnson, R-Sylacauga. Under the changes approved by both houses of the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Robert Bentley, Talladega would have four senators and four representatives.
The House districts would remain largely unchanged with the exception of an area near Lincoln that would be added to the district currently represented by Randy Wood, R-Anniston.
In Boyd’s district, 49 percent of her constituents would live in Talladega County and 51 in Calhoun County. Some 85 percent of Johnson’s constituents and 42 percent of Hurst’s would be local, while Wood would represent 3 percent in Talladega County and 55 percent in Calhoun County.
The Senate would be a different story, however. Currently, Fielding represents all of Talladega County. Under the new plan, 30 percent of his constituents would be in Talladega County while a majority, 51 percent, would be in St. Clair County.
Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, would have an 8 percent stake in Talladega County and 88 percent in Calhoun County, while Sen. Slade Blackwell, R-Montevallo, would have 17 percent of his constituency in Talladega versus 45 percent in Shelby County. Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, would have a 4 percent stake in Talladega County versus 57 percent in Jefferson County.
“I see this as a positive thing for the party in Talladega County,” McClendon said.
One of the party members asked, “How does this help me as a voter?”
“It’s a very political process,” McClendon said. “On the Senate side, there was nobody from the minority party involved. I understand your frustration, but we’ll be doing this again in a few years, and Talladega will have a stronger voice then.”
The new districts are not set in stone yet, however. Because of Alabama’s past history of racial discrimination, the changes must be approved by the U.S. Justice Department. Under the concept of retrogression, if there are fewer minority representatives than previously, this “throws up a red flag for the Justice Department.”
The new plan actually contains one more majority-minority district than the old plan, although accomplishing that took some doing.
For instance, in Jefferson County, House District 53, currently represented by Demetrius Newton, was moved to Madison County, where it remains a majority-minority district.
House District 73, on the other hand, was in Montgomery County and was represented by Alvin Holmes, a black Democrat. The district was moved into predominantly Republican Shelby County, where it will be an open seat in the next election.
Both houses agreed to draw up their own districts and not meddle with the others. Both measures passed on strictly partisan lines.
If the Justice Department throws out the previously approved plan, they will go to the Democrats and ask for an alternative, McClendon said.
A case in state court over a technicality has already been dismissed, but Democrats have vowed to fight the new lines in federal court. McClendon said he is not worried.
The new lines are based on the 2010 census results and the formula that makes the ideal Senate district 136,564 people and the ideal House district at 45,521.
Prior to redistricting, he said, Shelby County’s Senate district was 61 percent over the ideal while Montgomery County was 32 percent under.
“The goal is fair districts,” he said. “People ask me about if this is payback for what Democrats have done over the years, but we don’t need to stick it to anybody. There’s no need to be unfair. This reflects our constituencies.”
When asked about the racial aspect of redistricting, McClendon said, “When you shift minorities into a district that’s somewhat black and others to white districts, you can make both happy. But the fact of the matter is, the Justice Department doesn’t care about anybody in this room or any white Democrats. The racial minority and the minority party are the same to them.”
Contact Chris Norwood at firstname.lastname@example.org.