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Alabama Congressional Districts – Disconcerting or Not?

On December 12, Democrat nominee Doug Jones defeated Republican nominee Roy Moore in Alabama’s special election for United States Senate. This election was a hard-fought race with President Donald Trump supporting a losing candidate in the Republican primary and then the controversial Roy Moore.

Jones’s margin of victory state-wide was approximately 1.5 percentage points. Interestingly, across the state’s seven congressional districts, Jones only won one of the seven districts. Is this an anomaly or does this result lead to a conclusion the districts are gerrymandered and potentially unconstitutional? Maybe or maybe not!

Journalist Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post wrote about this phenomenon. See article here. He used analysis by J. Miles Coleman to explain the voting discrepancy.[1]

Essentially, the 7th Congressional District, has approximately 1/3rd of the African-American population with most of the other six districts having fewer African-American voters and a relatively equal number of white voters. Ingraham goes into great detail about how the Republican majority drew these districts after the 2010 Census. Ingraham cites experts who believe gerrymandering like what was done in Alabama, will continue as long as the representatives remain the drawers of the districts, rather than independent commissions.

In the fall, the US Supreme Court heard arguments about similar issues in the redistricting of Wisconsin’s state legislature. Although the statewide voting population was roughly equal of Democrat vs. Republican voters, the newly drawn districts created a Republican majority in nearly 2/3 of the districts. The issue before the Supreme Court is whether this partisan gerrymandering has crossed a threshold into a constitutional violation. If the Court rules the Wisconsin districts are constitutionally defective, one could expect challenges in many other states, especially those with circumstances like Alabama.

[1] Coleman, an elections analyst, works for Decision Desk HQ.