STEVE FLOWERS: Redistricting sees change in frequency
Published 1:11 pm Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Historically congressional and legislative districts have been redrawn every ten years when new census figures are taken. However, the U.S. Supreme Court in a landmark decision last year opened the door for legislatures to reapportion congressional and legislative districts at any time rather than every decade.
The decision arose out of the Texas legislature where the Texas republicans, after gaining majority status, abruptly redrew their congressional lines to gerrymander longtime democratic congressmen out of office. The nation’s highest tribunal upheld this mid-term gerrymandering and it is now the law of the land.
When the democratic majority in the Alabama State Senate adopted their rules for this quadrennium one of the sticking points that republicans complained about was a rule change which made it difficult for the republicans to stop a reapportionment effort during this term. It only takes a simple majority of democrats to pass a reapportionment bill out of the senate. This rule change was made with an eye to possibly changing the lines prior to the 2010 elections. They figured what was good for the republican gooses in Texas was good for the democratic ganders in Alabama. Rumor has it that this move may be afoot for the February regular session.
The recent revelation that Second District Congressman Terry Everett will retire next year may prompt a move for an early redistricting effort by the legislature. There will be a bevy of aspirants for the seat. However, the eventual victor’s tenure may be short lived. Even if the legislature does not intervene, early census figures suggest that Alabama may very well lose a congressional seat after the 2010 census. This district would be the top choice for the chopping block.
My observation over the years with any reapportionment effort is that partisanship becomes secondary to self-preservation. Most legislators look out for themselves first and their party second. Therefore, any move will be arduous and difficult to pass. If and when one does occur it will reflect the growing trend of creating more extremely partisan districts that are either very republican or very democratic.
In addition to the open congressional seat, next year’s state elections will feature our junior U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions seeking his third six-year term. State Senator Vivian Figures of Mobile says that she wants to make the race and be the Democrats token sacrificial lamb. Sessions, who is also from the Port City, should have clear sailing for reelection.
That leaves the GOP gubernatorial slot a coveted and very open position. The early names mentioned, Mike Hubbard, Rob Riley and Bradley Byrne, are all lightweights that do not excite many GOP stalwarts much less independent voters. However, a new name being promoted around the state is Troy University Chancellor Jack Hawkins. Hawkins possesses the charisma and stature to catapult to the top of the pack. He also has the fundraising expertise which is necessary in today’s political world.
Steve Flowers is a political columnist. He served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.