Why not redraw Alabama's congressional lines?
By By Steve Flowers
Last week's column expounded on the looming 2008 Presidential Race.
It is obvious that the apparent GOP frontrunner is Sen. John McCain from Arizona who is considered a moderate by republican standards.
However, McCain has veered more to the right over the past year positioning himself for the republican primaries. It reminds me of a saying made popular by the legendary House Speaker Sam Rayburn, "you have to go along to get along."
Mr. Sam was from Texas where a landmark ruling was handed down last year surrounding the Texas congressional delegation. The U.S. Constitution calls for a census to be taken every ten years.
The purpose of the census is to determine how many people live in each state in order to apportion the number of seats that state will have in the U.S. Congress. It is customary for each state legislature to reapportion or redraw congressional lines to accurately put the same number of people in each congressional district. This reapportionment is done the first year after the census numbers are released.
Therefore, all the states, including Texas, took the numbers gathered in 2000 and reapportioned the districts in 2001. The new districts went into effect with the 2002 elections and those districts would remain the same for the next ten years. It was assumed by all 50 states that this custom is the law of the land.
In 2002 when the Texas legislature drew the lines the democrats were in the majority.
Therefore, guess what, the democratic legislature drew a congressional reapportionment plan favorable to democrats retaining seats.
That is the way politics works. Those in the majority control not only the purse strings of state government but also the pencil during reapportionment.
However, a year after the lines were drawn the republicans became the majority in the Texas legislature and the former House Majority Leader Tom Delay (R-TX) brought a ton of Washington money into Texas to redraw the lines in mid-decade.
It was later found out that DeLay laid claim to a lot of tainted Washington lobby money. DeLay resigned from Congress last year because of money corruption but during the redrawing of the lines he was in power and he orchestrated this unprecedented republican power grab.
During the political firestorm that erupted some democratic legislators hid out in Oklahoma in an attempt to deny the legislature the quorum it needed to operate, hoping to thwart the republican coup, but ultimately DeLay's plan prevailed. The republicans picked up six seats in the 2004 elections, a significant shift in power for Texas and the U.S. Congress.
Late last summer the Supreme Court upheld the new Texas congressional districts.
The challenger said the Constitution called on the states to redraw their congressional district maps after the census every ten years and argued that the 2003 redistricting was an unconstitutional power grab.
However, the Court held that nothing in the Constitution limited the states to a single redistricting every ten years. This momentous ruling could lead to redistricting attempts every time state legislatures change hands between the ten year censuses.
With this door opened the question that goes begging is why doesn't Alabama's Democratic Party make an all out effort to redraw Alabama's congressional lines this year in time for the 2008 election.
The democrats control both the House and Senate of the legislature as far as the partisan numbers but currently our congressional delegation has five republicans and two democrats.
Arguably lines could be redrawn in a fashion to eliminate one of the republicans. The emerging increased African American majority in Montgomery could be used to create a majority democratic district extending from Montgomery to Mobile. Most of the democrats in Montgomery and Mobile could be connected by I-65 going through southwest Alabama and the republicans in Mobile and Baldwin could be rounded up and drawn in with Dothan and the Wiregrass thus combining one republican district and pitting Republican Congressmen Jo Bonner and Terry Everett against each other and creating a new safe democratic congressional seat.
The Supreme Court has ruled this gerrymandering is legal and that politics prevails. The door is certainly open for political reapportionment power plays every year.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama's leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 70 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us <http://www.steveflowers.us/>.