Power-Building Strategy: Create an additional Black congressional district through stricter enforcement of the Voting Rights Act and passage of HR 1 and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
While Doug Jones was a welcome addition to the Democratic caucus after his shocking upset US Senate victory in 2017, we expect Alabama to remain solidly red in statewide elections over the next 20 years. In the state legislature, Democrats may be able to snag a few seats in each chamber, mostly concentrated in the north of the state. The Republican supermajority is expected to be retained for the foreseeable future.
We see a stronger opportunity to build Democratic power at the congressional level, where greater enforcement of the Voting Rights Act could create one additional Black seat, as described by Stephen Wolf at Daily Kos. Alabama has the eighth-largest Black population of any state, but only one of its seven congressional districts is majority-Black.
The ability to affect district maps at the federal level is limited right now; enforcement of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) is one of the only ways the federal government could intervene. In his victory speech, Joe Biden thanked Black voters and said “you’ve always had my back, and I’ll have yours.” We believe a component of that promise should include working to ensure greater political power for Black voters by ensuring the creation of districts that allow Black voters to send the advocate of their choosing to Congress.
The Department of Justice’s hand could be strengthened by two critical pieces of legislation: HR 1, the For the People Act, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. Among other provisions, HR 1 would create a non-partisan redistricting commission in each state for Congressional districts. The John Lewis Voting Rights Act would renew the VRA and restore Section 5 preclearance, preventing Republicans from instituting discriminatory election practices once fair lines are drawn.
As Stephen Wolf says, “The 1965 Voting Rights Act is the foundation upon which minority representation and electoral participation is built.” While both parties should see this as a fundamentally worthy goal, the way Republicans drew the maps ten years ago — and continue to act today — makes clear that this is not a priority for them. As we approach the next round of redistricting, Democrats should use whatever leverage we have to create districts that reflect the diversity of our states, especially in places where those responsible for drawing the maps see it in their political interest to hinder the political power of Black voters.
How you can advance a 50-state strategy in Alabama:
- Encourage your member of Congress to immediately pass voting rights legislation once President Biden has signed the stimulus package.
- Call on the Department of Justice to take every step possible to enforce voting rights and representation for Black voters in Alabama.
Crossposted from EveryDistrict with permission.
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