Home / Politics / Here's what Alabama might have looked like in 2016 without GOP congressional gerrymandering

Here's what Alabama might have looked like in 2016 without GOP congressional gerrymandering

We’re taking a look at the impact of Republican gerrymanders on the 2016 congressional elections. Read why in our introductory post, and click here for the full series.

Alabama doesn’t often draw much attention over Republican gerrymandering, but many smaller states like it are a key part of how Republicans have such an unnatural edge in the House. Republicans gained control of the redistricting process in 2010 for the first time since Reconstruction, and they made sure that Alabama would continue electing six white Republicans by cramming as many Democrats as possible into the Voting Rights Act-protected heavily black 7th District. All six Republican-held seats remained so overwhelmingly red that Democrats have had utterly no chance in any of them since 2012.

Our nonpartisan proposal shown above (see here for a larger version) would undo the Republican gerrymander and create a second compact majority-minority district that would be near-certain to elect an additional black Democratic representative. Our map no longer combines Montgomery, the rural Black Belt, and Birmingham into a single seat. Instead, Montgomery and the Black Belt constitute the 2nd District, which is roughly 48 percent black and favored Clinton by 53-45. While that margin might seem competitive, this seat is so strongly polarized that Democrats would be heavily favored—indeed, five-term GOP Sen. Richard Shelby even lost it 53-47 despite winning re-election 64-36 statewide in 2016.

Consequently, our hypothetical 7th District would contain just Tuscaloosa and most of Birmingham. It has a narrow white plurality where enough white voters would consistently side with black voters to elect a black representative. Clinton won the seat by roughly 58-40, making it secure for black Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell. By undoing what is arguably an illegal racial gerrymander, Democrats would add one relatively secure seat, while black representation would double to a proportion that far more accurately reflects the more than one-quarter of Alabama that is African American.

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