- Associated Press - Monday, March 31, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - When Republicans took control of the Alabama Legislature in 2010, they also won the right to control the once-in-a -decade process of redrawing congressional district lines.

Democrats were already on something like political life support in Alabama. The state’s congressional district consisted of six white Republicans and one black Democrat.

The GOP-drawn plan protected incumbents and kept the split of six Republicans and one Democrat.

But did Republicans solidify the GOP’s dominance in Alabama congressional races?

Democrats said Republicans moved district lines in a way that limited the influence of black voters and a white Democratic stronghold, reducing their chances of making a congressional come-back.

“They started by drawing it so they could have a distinct advantage on Election Day by scattering blacks in districts over the state,” said Joe Reed, chairman of the Alabama Democratic Conference.

The Shoals area in northwest Alabama, where Democrats have continued to perform well on a local level, was split between two congressional districts in the new plan. The line dividing the 4th and 5th congressional districts runs down the Tennessee River separating Lauderdale and Colbert counties.

Rep. Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia, said while the counties are across the river from each other, they are one community.

Some of the biggest changes occurred in east Alabama’s 3rd congressional district. The new district lines appeared to farther tilt the district to the GOP. St. Clair County, where voters picked Mitt Romney over Obama by a 5-to-1 margin, was added to the district. Overall the district’s white population jumped from 65 percent to nearly 71 percent.

House Minority Leader Craig Ford said the new lines reduced Democrats’ chances of winning back those districts.

Reed also noted that Montgomery County is now divided among three congressional districts.

Rep. Jim McClendon, co-chairman of the reapportionment committee, disputed the assertion

McClendon said the starting point of the entire map was the 7th district, now represented by Rep. Terri Sewell, a Democrat. The state’s only majority African-America district, which sweeps through Alabama’s Black Belt and into urban Birmingham, had lost population according to the 2010 census. McClendon said plan architects had to move people into that 7th district while maintaining the districts status as majority black.

“We had to populate Terri Sewell’s district,” McClendon said.

McClendon said that, and other population shifts such as a suburban growth, created a domino effect of adjusting lines.

“I don’t think we really made any dramatic changes,” McClendon said.

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