Debates over how to best redraw the seven municipal districts that make up the city of Tuscaloosa will continue after a vote on a proposed redistricting map failed to earn unanimous support Tuesday night.

The city council, like all governing bodies, is tasked with redrawing its district maps each decade based on data gathered every 10 years by the U.S. Census Bureau. After the COVID-19 pandemic caused some delays gathering and releasing that information, it's time again to adopt a new city map.

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The goal is to divide the city's nearly 100,000 citizens as equally as possible into seven districts of about 14,000 people each. Ideally, those districts should also have a demographic makeup that closely matches the overall demographics of the city.

At issue is the new census data, which shows that Tuscaloosa has become a minority-majority city -- 51 percent of its citizens are not white, according to the 2020 census.

Non-white citizens make up the majority of three districts on the current council district map, and political activists argue that number should rise to four minority-majority districts to better mirror the city's overall population.

On Tuesday, the council considered adoption of a proposed redistricting known as "Council A Proposal," which kept non-white voters packed in three municipal districts, most notably in District 7, where almost 82 percent of all residents would be non-white.

(City of Tuscaloosa)
(City of Tuscaloosa)

Activists have asked the city to redraw district lines between Districts 6 and 7 to make non-white citizens the majority in both. They have also argued that such a move is not only the right thing to do, it may be legally required by the Voting Rights Act.

As was the case in two previous public meetings about redistricting, several Tuscaloosa residents attended the meeting Tuesday to decry the proposed map. They asked the council, who legally has until April to adopt a new map, to vote against the resolution they considered Tuesday and work with citizens to create a new, more fair map.

Because the resolution was being read for introduction, not adoption, the vote required unanimous approval from the council to pass Tuesday night.

District 1 councilman Matthew Wilson and District 7's Cassius Lanier said they wanted the council to take more time to consider its options before approving a new map and voted against it, preventing its passage Tuesday.

The other five members of the council voted in favor of the map proposed Tuesday, including District 2's Raevan Howard, who is Black.

Howard said redrawing the lines in Districts 6 and 7 would leave the margins between white residents and non-white residents razor-thin in both districts. She said she believes the likely outcome of that map would be the election of five white council members, leaving only two minorities on the council instead of the three holding seats there now in Districts 1, 2 and 7.

The council will now return to the drawing board and could vote again on the matter as early as next Tuesday. During a second reading, only a simple majority is required for a vote to pass and if no votes or proposals change between now and then, "Proposal A" is likely to pass at that time.

Stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread for updates on this matter as they develop in the future.

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