The Supreme Court of the United States is probably going to end up drawing Alabama's Congressional map and no one is sure how it'll look or when the matter will be settled.

That was the core of the message during a meeting of the Public Affairs Council of the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama in Tuscaloosa Wednesday.

The meeting drew several members of Tuscaloosa's legislative delegation who represent our area in Montgomery, including Democratic Rep. Chris England, Republican Senator Gerald Allen and Republican Rep. Ron Bolton.

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England led a long discussion about Congressional redistricting and what it might mean for the area. For those unfamiliar with the context, the Supreme Court ruled last month that Alabama's seven congressional districts as they were drawn in 2021 violate the Voting Rights Act by deliberately diluting the strength of minority voters.

Now, the Alabama Legislature will gather in Montgomery for a special session that begins Monday and must wrap up by Friday. In that impossibly small window, the infamously combative body is tasked with considering and adopting a new map that redraws our Congressional districts to submit back to the high Court.

England said there's basically no chance of that happening because Republican incumbents hold six of Alabama's seven seats in the House, and a new map will likely see one of them forfeit their office in Washington D.C. -

"The legislature somehow creating a map that satisfies the Voting Rights Act that we can all agree on – is it possible?" England said. "I don’t think it’s going to happen. I’ve been surprised before, but this is going to be a tough ask because most proposals put Republicans in the tenuous position of having to create a district that is likely to eliminate one of their current, sitting members."

Even good-faith efforts at bipartisan negotiation would likely come at catastrophic political costs for Republicans, delegation members said.

In the unlikely scenario that Montgomery does adopt a map, even that might be futile and the Court will have the final say on how the map looks.

"Even if we do pass a map, that may have a lot of weight towards what eventually happens, but the court can still reject that map and draw their own," England said. "You want to take a stab at it just to show at least we gave an honest effort to satisfy the Court. If we just said 'To hell with it, you’re just going to do what you want anyway,' the likelihood is we would get hammered in that situation and the map would be even more egregious – depending on your perspective. Give a map to the court, you at least give them an idea of your position."

There were 13 maps for the Public Affairs Council to look over, but very little time was spent doing so - the general feeling was that none of those 13 maps would likely be presented as an actual bill to pass the Legislature.

Perhaps the most interesting angle of the redistricting issue for our area is what will become of Tuscaloosa County on the new map.

As it stands, the northern half of the County is drawn into District 4 and represented by Republican Robert Aderholt. The southern half is part of District 7, where Democrat Terri Sewell holds office.

Those at the Wednesday meeting at the Chamber had mixed feelings about the status quo, and the prevailing sentiment seemed to be that Sewell and Aderholt invest too little time and federal resources in the Tuscaloosa area.

On the other hand, having the County split between the two districts also gives local leaders the unusual perk of being represented by two people from both major political parties - an opportunity to seek funding for area projects from a wider variety of sources.

A map that unifies Tuscaloosa County is not even a guarantee that someone with deeper local roots would be elected, England warned.

"You can put us in one district but we would still occupy the same small space, and it’s just very difficult to pull that sort of attention here," he said. "There are 715,000 people in a district, so it’s going to be hard for Tuscaloosa County to command candidate attention or get a candidate elected."

Even so, some in attendance said they believe the right Tuscaloosa politician could win a district that included the entire county - some suggested England himself or Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox could prevail in the right circumstances.

"You make us whole, the district would probably go south from there, I don't see how it could go north," said businessman and civic leader Jordan Plaster. "I can see someone from Tuscaloosa getting elected in the Black Belt. It could be a Democrat, it could be a Republican! It could be somebody to represent us."

The Legislature met Thursday for a public hearing later described as "tortured." The special session will begin Monday and wrap up next Friday.

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