Mini Redistricting Challenge: Alabama

Diarist roguemapper has a great post up featuring the creation of new majority-minority VRA districts in several southern states. I like these maps, but I don’t expect the Obama DOJ to be this aggressive in requiring new maj-min seats – and I also think that many southern legislators probably won’t be interested in drawing lines like these. As most Swingnuts are aware, heavily black districts have operated as Democratic vote sinks for two decades now, helping Republicans win seats abruptly depopulated of reliable blue votes. But with the southern realignment finally complete, I don’t think there are too many GOP officials in Alabama, for instance, who think they can’t easily hold 6 of 7 congressional districts.

In fact, this is exactly what the Republicans are planning on:

The likely result is a new congressional map that protects all six Republican congressmen and keeps intact the majority black district home to the only Democrat, according to U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks.

So the challenge to you is to create a map that packs as many African Americans into a single district in Alabama as you possibly can. No rules, and no prizes other than bragging rights (or maybe a job working for the Republicans on the redistricting committee). I figure there are three rough categories, though: compact (aka goo-goo fetishist-style), ugly but beautiful (aka abgin-style), and supremely ugly with touch-point contiguity (aka andgarden-style). Post as many entries (in as many styles) as you like.

Have fun, and share your results in comments!

P.S. If for some reason you’ve made it this far but haven’t yet encountered the glory that is Dave’s Redistricting App, well go and check it out! It’s the essential tool for any citizen redistricting efforts.

UPDATE: So far it looks like the most extreme gerrymander belongs to goohiost7, whose district is 81.5% African American.

56 thoughts on “Mini Redistricting Challenge: Alabama”

  1. I’m not much of a mapper but my sense is that all they need to do to keep all 6 districts is add St Clair county to district 3.  If you wanted to be really crazy maybe you’d try to take the black precincts out of Montgomery and put them back into district 7.  The only major question left is whether district 5 has experienced a permanent shift to the repubs or rather the voters might consider a dem later on.  

  2. that roguemapper has identified is that packing so many black voters into one district may violate the VRA as renewed in 2006, whether or not the state purports to do so on the basis of race or politics. That’s because the new version prohibits discriminatory effects, not just intent.

    It also seems likely that every map posted to this page would be an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. We have only racial data for Alabama, and you can’t use that as a proxy for voting behavior (even though in Alabama, it is).

  3. OK, I couldn’t resist.

    There is no touch-point contiguity (but it’s close at spots).

    Here are the stats:

    665,991 people (+5 over equal)

    81% black

    16% white

  4. On one level, those are probably the only seats we’re going to have in many Deep South states going forward. So being more aggressive about creating them isn’t a bad thing.

    On another level, though, a precedent that creates as many of them as possible hurts us in other states where they serve as Democratic vote sinks.

  5. I like these maps, but I don’t expect the Obama DOJ to be this aggressive in requiring new maj-min seats

    I agree that such a move would not sit well with Republican legislators in the South, but any reason why you think the DOJ will not be aggressive for political advantage as the Bush DOJ in 1991 was for example? They could likely get away with it legally under VRA justification right?

  6. then I anticipate that southern states will likely to running to the DC Circuit for a declaratory judgment.  

  7. Does a district need to be 50% of a specific group to be a minority-majority VRA protected district or can it be a mix of say 30% AA and 25% Hispanic?  I’m not quite sure where the law comes down on that one.

  8. I created a map, but I don’t know how to post the picture of it in a post.

    The demographics are

    Blacks 542,857 (81.49%) Whites 104,647 Total 666,140

  9. CD1 = 81% white

    CD2 = 75% white

    CD3 = 75% white

    CD4 = 73% white

    CD5 = 80% white

    CD6 = 73% white

    CD7 = 35% white

    i think mine is a more plausible gerrymander, keeping all CD’s besides #7 >70% white by splitting the Birmingham metro region between 5 Cd’s

  10. CD1: Wh 500,143  Bl 130,280; Tot 666,140 [+154]

    CD2: Wh 466,391, Bl 163,858; Tot 665,948 [-38]

    CD3: Wh 502,641, Bl 137,786; Tot 666,006 [+20]

    CD4: Wh 565,029, Bl 52,962; Tot 666,096 [+110]

    CD5: Wh 515,286, Bl 107,781; Tot 665,854 [-132]

    CD6: Wh 527,197, Bl 95,605; Tot 665,907 [-79]

    CD7: Wh 114,307, Bl 532,705; Tot 665,949 [-37]

    I’m pretty sure that all of the incumbent Republicans live in their districts, which are all over 70% white.  CD7 is 80.0% African-American.

  11. AL-1 67% White, 28% Black

    AL-2 67% White, 28% Black

    AL-3 75% White, 21% Black

    AL-4 81% White, 14% Black

    AL-5 82% White, 10% Black

    AL-6 76% White, 18% Black

    AL-7 64% Black, 32% White

    I just noticed an connecting one district error on the map, which I just corrected. Here’s the corrected one.

    Uploaded with

  12. that putting 64% of blacks in one district may be considered a VRA violation. Yet the other six have a higher percentage of whites.

  13. it’s that it leads to a racial gerrymander and goes against one of the new tenents of VRA when they renewed it in 2006.

  14. Don’t think you can call comparable the history of voting rights and representation of blacks and whites, especially not in a state like Alabama.

  15. White voters are going to be a majority in most of the districts regardless of how you draw the map. It’s not even remotely an issue of the VRA.

  16. The area south of your VRA district is too much for one district but too little for two districts, I believe. So the rest of the map wouldn’t work out.  

  17. That’s an excellent point.

    Here’s an 80% AA district (17% white) without the lateral bisection:

  18. It seems to me the worse that could happen is the Republican legislatures get to do what they were intending to do anyhow.

    Am I missing something with that viewpoint?

  19. From the mission of SSP, but I just don’t see the Obama administration being interested in pursuing such a racially-charged fight, especially when this issue can be so simplistically portrayed in the media as Obama looking to help blacks at the expense of white voters. (Yes, I know that’s inaccurate – but the tradmed is usually inaccurate!)

  20. I’m pretty sure our Birmingham section is exactly the same, with the exception of the connector to the rest of the district.

    I think our Mobile tendrils are exactly the same, as well.

  21. does anyone know which state owns the chattahoochee river (Alabama’s eastern border)? If you wanted to get really ugly you could give one district river contiguity, assuming that the river lies in AL. No idea if there’s any precedent for that, but it would be theoretically legal, I think.

  22. The western line of the cession on the Chattahoochee river must be traced on the water-line of the acclivity of the western bank, and along that bank where that is defined; and in such places on the river where the western bank is not defined, it must be continued up the river on the line of its bed, as that is made by the average and mean stage of the water, as that is expressed in the conclusion of the preceding paragraph of this opinion.

    So Georgia owns the Chattahoochee, assuming average water levels. Although you could probably still design a really really ugly district using the shoreline or something. (Hey, if Interstate median strips have been used….)

  23. Amazing research! Digging up a Supreme Court case from 1859… and the fact that there even was a Supreme Court case literally directly on point! Awesome.

  24. This page from the NAACP has good explanations. People often get confused between “coalition” districts and “crossover” districts:

    Minority-Coalition Districts: A minority-coalition district is a type of majority-minority district in which two or more minority groups combine to form a majority in a district. Thus, a district that is 25% African-American, 20% Latino and 6% Asian American is a majority-minority district, but it is not a majority African-American, majority- Latino, or majority-Asian American district. In most jurisdictions, when two or more minority groups form a coalition that collectively meets the Thornburg v. Gingles requirements, the coalition may be able to seek relief under Section 2 if officials fail to create a minority-coalition district. The Supreme Court has not addressed this issue.

    Crossover Districts: A crossover district is one in which minorities do not form a numerical majority but still reliably control the outcome of the election with some non-minority voters “crossing over” to vote with the minority group. While states can and should consider creating crossover districts, the Supreme Court in 2009 held that the Voting Rights Act does not require their creation.

    The second graf is referring to Bartlett v. Strickland.

  25. Step 1: Upload the image file to a site like

    Step 2: In a comment here, use the following code:

    [img src=”url”]

    Replace the brackets with angle brackets (i.e., < and >), and put the URL of your image in the space between the quotation marks.

  26. The VRA districts that I created for Alabama both have a 53% AA majority.

    The Mississippi districts I created have a 52% AA majority & a 48% AA plurality.

    The Louisiana districts are 49% AA plurality (the New Orleans seat) and 48% AA plurality (the Baton Rouge seat). I suspect that more accurate Census figures would permit an outright AA majority seat for Baton Rouge, but that remains to be seen.

    The initial Arkansas district I created is 46% AA.

  27. should’nt two districts be majority-minority since almost a third of the population is? Perhaps even 3 not that it would happen but still in a world where everything is fair heh.  

  28. what is the most Republican district you can draw for Spencer Bachus in AL-6? He wouldn’t need it, as R+29 AL-6 would elect him even in the live girl/dead boy scenario. However, I was curious to see if someone is able make the most Republican district in the country into an R+35 or R+40.

  29. And the fact the black population so spread around also is a sensible reason for another district.

  30. R+35 or so? I’ve always been amazed by how Jose Serrano can represent a D+41 district, but the most Republican district is “only” R+29. Of course, this is due to those most heavily Democratic seats being in urban areas, but I’m wondering how close Republicans can come to replicating seats as similarly Republican.

  31. Republicans would probably rather not have PVI’s that high since they’d rather spread out their votes rather than pack them together.

  32. that the GOP likes to spread out the PVI of their seats, I was just curious. Thank you for the potential information!

  33. There aren’t many places where one could even come close to making a R+40 district. Republican strength is spread more evenly than that in most places. For various reasons, Democrats of all races tend to concentrate more.

    If you could figure out how to make an essentially-all-white district in a Deep South state, that’s probably how’d you do it. But that’s generally not easy since the states where whites vote Republican enough at rates sufficient to make this work also tend to be the states where it’s tough find enough areas where no blacks live.

    There’s East Tennessee but it’s hard to make a whole CD without including one of the bigger cities in that area, which, while pretty Republican by national standards, are going to mess with one’s ability to get to anything close to R+40.  

    West Texas might be your best bet, although any place where there’s a decent sized Hispanic vote has to be avoided too.  

  34. First, upload the image to an image-sharing site.

    Then, use the code [img src=”URL of image”] in your comment, with angle brackets substituted for the square brackets.

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