The Tuscaloosa County Commission voted 3-1 to redraw the lines of its four districts Wednesday. This caught criticism from several audience members, who claimed this move was an act of racial gerrymandering to pack as many Black voters as possible into a single district and dilute the power of their votes.

Following the 2020 Census, Tuscaloosa County reported a total population of 227,036 people with a minority population of 90,454, roughly 39.8 percent.

Sue Thompson, a member of the NAACP Tuscaloosa branch and notably the first Black woman to graduate from the University of Alabama School of Law, saw an issue with the adopted proposal when it was first being discussed.

She pointed out that only 20 percent of the County Commission, when you include Probate Judge and Commission Chairman Rob Robertson, was represented by a person of color -- District 4's Reginald Murray. Thompson said with the county's current makeup of nearly 40 percent minorities, that's a problem.

The Commission was considering 2 initial proposals before Thompson introduced an alternative, and the two proposals introduced by the commission were condensed into a single option called "Proposal 5." Thompson's was referred to as "Proposal 2."

Get our free mobile app

"I introduced the proposal to avoid any adversarial position on the redistricting issue," Thompson said. "I don't think it was their intention... But in my eyes it does look like racial gerrymandering to pack a lot of Black voters in the same district."

(West Alabama Regional Commission)
(West Alabama Regional Commission)
loading...

Thompson's "Proposal 2" would result in unpacking the black vote in District 4 and creating making District 3 more competitive for a black candidate. The demographic makeup under this proposal would be as follows:

  • District 1 (Commissioner Stan Acker)
    • Population: 57,421
    • Minority: 10,937 (19.05%)
  • District 2 (Commissioner Jerry Tingle)
    • Population: 54,259
    • Minority: 17,397 (32.06%)
  • District 3 (Commissioner Mark Nelson)
    • Population: 57,420
    • Minority: 29,496 (51.37%)
  • District 4 (Commissioner Reginald Murray)
    • Population: 57,936
    • Minority: 32,624 (56.31%)

 

According to Thompson, Proposal 2 would also create more naturally occurring district boundaries with major thoroughfares.

(West Alabama Regional Commission)
(West Alabama Regional Commission)
loading...

The proposal that was ultimately adopted, "Proposal 5," included new sections to be added to District 4, carving out neighborhoods from both District 1 and District 3. The voting district breakdown for Proposal 5 is as follows:

  • District 1 (Commissioner Stan Acker)
    • Population: 59,275
    • Minority: 10,737 (18.11%)
  • District 2 (Commissioner Jerry Tingle)
    • Population: 53,934
    • Minority: 18,479 (34.26%)
  • District 3 (Commissioner Mark Nelson)
    • Population: 59,208
    • Minority: 24,387 (51.37%)
  • District 4 (Commissioner Reginald Murray)
    • Population: 54,619
    • Minority: 36,851 (56.31%)

"These are all majority Black neighborhoods, while deliberately leaving out white neighborhoods," she said. "Deerfield, that areas north of the Warrior River and west of McFarland are overwhelmingly white, and were proposed to be in District 4 in Proposal 2."

Thompson also pointed out a distinct zig-zag shape along the western boundary line for District 3, carving out distinct neighborhoods from the proposed District 4 expansion.

These areas include Queen City Avenue, Hackberry Lane, Jug Factory Road, 26th Ave E and Hargrove Road on the boundary, which are predominantly Black neighborhoods.

The majority of these changes affect residents in and around the city of Tuscaloosa and the city of Northport.

"It's a concern because racial gerrymandering is not allowed under the Voting Rights Act," Thompson said. "And this map looks like racial gerrymandering -- to pack a lot of black voters in the same district."

The vote was initially intended to be held in an executive session, according to Thompson, meaning that no public comments would have been allowed.

The Commission also had the option to table this discussion for a later date.

These redistricting lines would not affect the upcoming 2022 election cycle on a local and county level. The county attorney recommended that they table the discussion and allow for public input before making such a big decision.

District 4 Commissioner Reginald Murray, whose district would be impacted most by the redistricting, proposed a motion to table the vote but received no second.

District 1 Commissioner Stan Acker then proposed a motion to vote and adopt the criticized "Proposal 5," District 3 Commissioner Mark Nelson seconded, and the vote passed 3-1. Murray was the only dissenting vote.

Lisa Young, President of the Tuscaloosa branch of the NAACP, was also in attendance. The Thread asked her for comment following the vote, and she said that she promised to try and fight this decision.

"I'm disappointed at the decision," Young said. "If there's a lawsuit, the NAACP will support that. But I'm going to do everything I can at the NAACP, with the SPLC and the ACLU. It's going to be a tough fight, but I want to fight it."

KEEP READING: See changes enacted since George Floyd’s death

LOOK: 28 Modern Black History Makers & Moments

 

 

LOOK: 50 essential civil rights speeches

Many of the speakers had a lifetime commitment to human rights, but one tried to silence an activist lobbying for voting rights, before later signing off on major civil rights legislation. Several fought for freedom for more than one oppressed group.

Keep reading to discover 50 essential civil rights speeches.

Black Lives Matter Murals

10 Protest Issues in the US

Top Stories From The Tuscaloosa Thread (10/11-10/15)