CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

October 8, 2012

Justice Dept. clears Ala.’s new legislative districts

By David Palmer
The Cullman Times

— The U.S. Justice Department has cleared Alabama’s new legislative districts for use in the 2014 elections, although some other challenges may remain.

Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez notified state Attorney General Luther Strange of the decision Friday. The Justice Department has to review new political boundaries in Alabama to make sure they don’t violate the 1965 Voting Rights Act by disenfranchising black voters.

State Rep. Jeremy Oden, R-Vinemont, said he was pleased to learn of the Justice Department’s approval of the plan.

“When the Justice Department clears it, that should mean it will hold up. The DOJ looks closely at the race issues, for any potential of disenfranchisement,” Oden said. “I know that every effort was made to be sensitive to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. After a Census the state is required to look at the legislative districts again.”

The co-chairman of the Legislature’s Redistricting Committee, Republican Rep. Jim McClendon of Springville, says the committee worked hard to maintain minority legislative districts and to make sure the new district were fair to every racial group and area of the state.

The Legislature drew new districts last year for Congress and the State Board of Education. Those also got Justice Department approval. The new districts are based on the 2010 Census.

“I don’t if a court will hear any of the other complaints after the DOJ’s ruling, unless maybe it’s an individual district somewhere,” Oden said. Even then, I’m not sure anything would affect the redistricting as a whole. The last time that happened was the in the 1980s, but getting the Justice Department’s approval at this point is important.”

The redistricting effort has left Oden and State Sen. Paul Bussman with expanded districts into neighboring counties.

* Some information for this story was taken from reports by the Associated Press.