MOBILE, Ala (WKRG) — The Mobile NAACP has joined the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Stand Up Mobile, as organizations opposing Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s proposed redistricting plan.
Every ten years following the U.S. Census, the city has to redraw the lines for the seven city council districts to accurately reflect the current demographics. According to the latest Census count, there are about 20,000 more black people living in Mobile than white. In terms of the total population, the city is more than 51% black and almost 44% white. Of the voting-age population, 48.4% are black and 44.4% percent are white.
Those are the figures which Stimpson has based his plan. It calls for four of seven city council districts to have more black voters than white. Stimpson said that should ensure that the city council, for the first time ever will have four black representatives and three white.
The city is holding a series of public meetings this week and next, in all seven districts, to discuss the plan and get citizen input. Over the past few weeks, since the Mayor first put out his proposal, some boundaries have already been tweaked.
Many in the black community are not happy with the plan.
The mayor’s latest proposal maintains at least 60% voting-age black populations in the three current African American districts (1,2 and 3). So, the major point of contention is District 7. This is the district that the mayor said will be the fourth black district.
Under Stimpson’s latest proposal, District 7 would have a voting-age population of 48.1% black and 45.4% white.
African-American and voting rights groups said the black population should be at least 50% in District 7.
“Under 50% is not compliant with the Voting Rights Act,” said Beverly Cooper with Stand Up Mobile. She notes that she means 50% of the voting-age population.
The NAACP claims the U.S. Supreme Court in Bartlett vs. Strickland ruled that minorities “must constitute at least 50% of a district’s voting-age population in order for it to be majority black.”
Cooper adds that since black election turnout has typically been less than white turnout in Mobile, the percentage may need to be even higher.
“It looks like it might need to be 52 to 55%,” she said.
Supporters of Stimpson’s plan note that District 5, considered a “white” district, actually has a higher African American population. Among people of voting age, 46.6% are white, and 42.5% percent are black. That would make District 5 as much of a toss up as District 7.
Cooper, though, said whether Mobile ends up with five black council members, or five white, is not the point.
“Let’s not mix up electing a black candidate with the black community having the power to decide exactly who could win, black or white,” Cooper said.
Once the seven public meetings are finished, the mayor must present his final proposal to the city council by Feb. 12. The council can then approve the proposal, tweak it or dismiss it altogether and come up with its own plan. The council has six months to approve the final maps.