Court Battle Over Legislative Redistricting, Montgomery Mayoral Race

Aug 25, 2015

Montgomery mayoral candidates, from left: Buena Browder, Dan Harris, Todd Strange, Ella Bell, Artur Davis.

The fight over political redistricting in Alabama is headed back to federal court.

A three-judge panel will hear arguments later today in Montgomery over whether legislators relied too much on race when they drew legislative district lines.

Back in March, a divided U.S. Supreme Court sent the map back for additional review. Alabama’s Legislative Black Caucus had challenged the district lines that were redrawn by the newly elected GOP legislative majority. Black lawmakers said Republicans "stacked and packed" black voters into designated minority districts. That limited those voters’ ability to influence elections elsewhere.

Lawmakers said they complied with the Voting Rights Act by preserving minority representation in the Alabama Legislature. They said voters were shifted to make each legislative district roughly the same size.

If the federal court rejects Alabama’s district map, the state will have to hold new elections.

Montgomery voters will head to the polls today to elect a new mayor.

Incumbent mayor Todd Strange is running for his second term. Challengers include Buena Browder, Montgomery County Commission vice-chairman Dan Harris, longtime AEA board member Ella Bell and former U.S. Congressman Artur Davis.

D’Linell Finley is a professor of political science at Alabama State University. He says one major issue in this race is economic development, especially in west Montgomery.

“There is a big contention by the black candidates – Ella Bell, Dan Harris, and Ms. Browder – that the West has lagged behind in terms of economic development.”

Political analysts are predicting this race could have one of the highest voter turnouts in the city’s history.

Republican Presidential candidate Ted Cruz is making a stop in Tuscaloosa tonight.

Cruz is the keynote speaker at the annual Lincoln-Reagan dinner at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The event is a fundraiser for the Tuscaloosa County Republican Party.

Jim Zeanah is the chairman of the Tuscaloosa County Republican Party. He says having Cruz as the headliner for the event is the main goal of the dinner.

“The Lincoln-Reagan Dinner has two objectives. One, to honor Alabama political Figures and two, to bring to West Alabama people of national importance and to get West Alabama more involved in national politics.”

Candidates such as Mitt Romney, Bush White House adviser Karl Rove and former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour have attended the dinner in the past. Tickets are sold out for the event.

A town of about 7,100 residents in the Birmingham area is considering starting its own police department.

A city councilman in Pinson has proposed establishing a police department for the small town. Councilman Joe Cochran says a department with about a dozen police officers could be funded with a two-cent sales tax increase.

Pinson currently pays the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office around $340,000 a year to have four deputies patrol the city, and for more to respond if needed. Cochran estimates the independent police department would cost around $1.3 million a year.

The town will hold a public meeting to discuss the idea Thursday evening.