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3 months ago

Lawsuit claims Congressional maps dilute black voters in 3 states including Alabama

A Democratic political group launched a legal campaign Wednesday to create additional majority-minority congressional districts in three Southern states, claiming the current maps discriminate against black voters.

Attorneys filed separate federal lawsuits in Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana, challenging congressional maps lawmakers in each state approved in 2011.The lawsuits filed on behalf of several black voters in each state are backed by the National Redistricting Foundation, a nonprofit affiliate of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which is chaired by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

The suits claim the districts violate a section of the Voting Rights Act by depriving black voters of an equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice to the U.S. House of Representatives.

They ask the courts to block the three states from holding any more congressional elections under their current maps.

The new lawsuits mean there now are redistricting challenges pending in a dozen states — in some places, multiple lawsuits —alleging racial or political gerrymandering in U.S. House or state legislative districts.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule later this month on at least two of those cases alleging unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering by the Republican-led Legislature in Wisconsin and the Democratic-led Legislature in Maryland.

Though likely too late to affect this year’s elections, the lawsuits could force districts to be redrawn in advance of the 2020 elections.

The timing is important because any court rulings could set precedents for when all states must redraw legislative districts based on the results of the 2020 Census.

During the last round of redistricting, Republicans who swept to power in many state capitols in 2010 used their newly enlarged majorities to draw districts that Democrats contend have made it harder from them to regain power during the past decade.

Democrats aided by Holder and former President Barack Obama are attempting to better position themselves for the next round of redistricting by backing state legislative candidates, lawsuits and ballot initiatives that would shift redistricting powers away from lawmakers to independent commissions in some states.

“The creation of additional districts in which African Americans have the opportunity to elect their preferred candidates in each of these states will be an important step toward making the voting power of African Americans more equal and moving us closer to the ideals of our representative democracy,” Holder said in a statement Wednesday.

The National Redistricting Foundation also is helping finance pending lawsuits in North Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

Matt Walter, president of the Republican State Leadership Committee, accused Holder of “resorting to politically-motivated litigation aimed at taking away the constitutional authority of elected state legislators to draw district lines.”

“The cynical lawsuits filed today by Holder and the Democrats are crass attempts to rally the left-wing base and to elect more Democrats through litigation, instead of running winning campaigns on policies and ideas that voters actually want,” Walter said in an email Wednesday.

Each state’s chief elections official is named as the defendant in each lawsuit.

Holder was serving as attorney general under Obama when the Justice Department cleared the 2011 congressional maps in Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana as complying with the Voting Rights Act. But that doesn’t prohibit subsequent lawsuits asserting violations under a different section of the act.

Republicans hold commanding congressional majorities over Democrats in each of the challenged states, controlling six of the seven U.S. House seats in Alabama, 10 of the 14 seats in Georgia and five of the six seats in Louisiana.

All of the Republican House members for those states are white and all of the Democratic representatives are black.

The lawsuit challenging Louisiana’s map claims state lawmakers illegally limited minority voting influence by “packing” black voters into one majority-minority district and “cracking,” or spreading them out, among other districts. Louisiana’s U.S. House districts shrank from seven to six in 2011 because of slow population growth.

The Alabama suit claims the state’s 2011 map illegally “packs” black voters into its sole majority African-American district, now represented by U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, and “cracks” voters among three other districts.

The lawsuit contends that Alabama’s black population is large enough, and geographically compact enough, to form a second majority-minority district.

State Sen. Gerald Dial, a Republican who sponsored Alabama’s 2011 redistricting plan, said the map reflects the state’s population.

“I think their complaint is not grounded,” Dial said Wednesday.

The Georgia lawsuit claims lawmakers redrew the 12th congressional district to excise black voters in Savannah and add white voters from two counties, reducing the district’s black population of voting age from 41.5 percent to 33.3 percent.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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13 mins ago

Animals driven to Alabama in a school bus after being saved from Hurricane Florence

In the story of “Noah’s Ark except it’s a school bus,” The Washington Post detailed how a truck driver saved more than 60 animals from Hurricane Florence and drove them to Alabama.

The man who rescued the animals, Tony Alsup, has been back and forth between the South Carolina coast and Alabama in the last week, shuttling 53 dogs and 11 cats to safety from endangered animal shelters.

Running on very little sleep and fueled by Waffle House pitstops, the 51-year-old trucker from Tennessee is being hailed as a savior for the otherwise defenseless animals, many of whom would have been put down by the shelters facing the then-approaching hurricane. Now, in the aftermath of Florence, he continues to search for pets in need of rescuing.

“I’m like, look, these are lives too,” Alsup told The Washington Post during a Waffle House stop.

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He continued, “Animals — especially shelter pets — they always have to take the back seat of the bus. But I’ll give them their own bus. If I have to I’ll pay for all the fuel, or even a boat, to get these dogs out of there.”

Alsup, who wants to open his own animal shelter one day, has been rescuing shelter pets from floodwaters with his bus since Hurricane Harvey ravaged the Texas coast in 2017. When he saw on the news how so many animal shelters had become overcrowded with lost or rescued animals, Alsup figured he could help by transporting animals to vacant shelters.

Yet, he knew he could not put them in a semitrailer.

“I thought, well what can I do?” Alsup explained. “I’ll just go buy a bus.”

Since then, he has helped with rescue efforts during hurricanes Irma and Maria and, now, Florence.

Once Alsup loads the animals in his bus, he drives them to Foley in Baldwin County. There, his friend, Angela Eib-Maddux, has opened her privately run dog shelter to the new arrivals. She gives them baths and fluffy blankets and “spa treatment,” Alsup said, until they can find enough shelters or foster homes to take the animals.

As of Monday, Alsup had managed to find a permanent home or new shelter for every animal he rescued.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

35 mins ago

Dem state senator’s son arrested on domestic violence charge

Akil Michael Figures, son of Alabama state Senator Vivian Davis Figures (D-Mobile), has been arrested on a domestic violence charge, per Fox 10.

The 36-year-old Figures was reportedly charged with third-degree domestic violence (menacing), and this is by no means his first run in with the law in Alabama. He has an extensive rap sheet, including drug charges, giving false information and various traffic offenses.

In June, Figures made headlines when he was shot in the leg in Foley. Authorities then said a man shot Figures twice in the leg at a home in the Baldwin County city.

On Tuesday morning, he was booked into Mobile County Metro Jail just after midnight and then released on bail a short time later.

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Additional court records show that a woman, who Figures previously dated, filed near the end of August for protection from the alleged abuse. She was granted this protection until February. Figures has denied the abuse claims and asked for a hearing on the request for protection.

Per the Lagniappe in Mobile, Figures pleaded guilty in 2006 to a single charge of “possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine” after federal prosecutors agreed to a deal dropping a similar charge related to the distribution of ecstasy.

After being sentenced to five years in jail and eight years of probation for that distribution plea, lawyers representing Figures in 2016 asked for probation period to be cut in half, saying the man had kept an “unblemished” record and “regained the trust and confidence of his family.”

The attorneys’ request in 2016 did stipulate that Figures had received a “technical infraction” of his probation “for sending a text message after being ordered to refrain from any further communication with a woman with whom he had a relationship.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 hour ago

Walt Maddox finally has a plan for Medicaid expansion and it’s pretty bad

Alabama Democrats love bad ideas.

They also have no clue how to pay for these terrible ideas, even though some have tried to figure it out, bless their hearts.

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Walt Maddox has been pushing the media-friendly idea that if we would just expand Medicaid. all would be well, unfortunately, he knows almost nothing about the program.

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As Yellowhammer News exposed yesterday, Talk 99.5’s Matt Murphy embarrassed Maddox on the issue:

MADDOX: There are 33 states that have gone along with the expansion of Medicaid. There are six more that are considering it.

MURPHY: You know how much the state budget for Medicaid is right now?

MADDOX: Not offhand —

MURPHY: It’s about a quarter, a quarter of the total budget. Twenty-four percent of the total budget is Medicare and that is expected to over the next decade go up to as much as 35 percent of the total state budget and I’m wondering how we stop that.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, he also has no idea how to pay for the program.

MADDOX: You take a combination of taxing the existing gambling that is here and sports gambling. And that will be what you put in your general fund as your offset to it.

The problem is this doesn’t even come close to actually covering the cost of his idea.

If he is capable of getting the legislature to allow existing gambling to be taxed, liberal columnist Josh Moon speculates it would only bring in $15 million.

If he is capable of getting the legislature to pass a sports gambling bill, we can look to Mississippi and see that they are projecting that they will collect $30 million in taxes. Granted, Mississippi is about 60 percent of the size of Alabama, so if we play with the math that puts Alabama at about $50 million a year in revenue.

Play with the math any way you want, but the guy proposing these measures is clearly out of his depth. Clearly, Maddox has no real clue what the numbers are and we still aren’t anywhere near the $150-$200 million that he acknowledges his proposal will cost.

This remains a media favorite talking point with no substance. It’s time for Walt Maddox and his campaign to figure out how to pay for his proposal.

@TheDaleJackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a conservative talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN

3 hours ago

Huntsville City Council candidate’s ties to Bernie Sanders revealed in ad — ‘Few things are scarier than socialism’

On Monday, Dr. Mary Jane Caylor’s campaign for Huntsville City Council released a creative new social media ad that invoked her opponent’s ties to socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

With Halloween on the horizon, Caylor hit her opponent, Frances Akridge, with the tagline “few things are scarier than socialism… Especially in our local government.”

Akridge, the ad says, has donated to liberal campaigns across the country, including Bernie Sanders for President, Rick Nolan for Congress (Minnesota), Katie McGinty for Senate (Pennsylvania), Nelson for Congress (Wisconsin), Zephyr Teachout for Attorney General (New York), Nanette Diaz Barragán for Congress (California), Deborah Ross for Senate (North Carolina), Chase Irons for Congress (North Dakota), Maggie Hassan for Senate (New Hampshire), Paul Clements for Congress (Texas), Morgan Carroll for Congress (Colorado), Russ Feingold for Congress (Wisconsin) and Pramila Jayapal for Congress (Washington).

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While local races are normally less partisan than statewide or national races, Caylor’s campaign tied Akridge’s “ultra-left” activities to the local level, saying that Huntsville would be hurt by socialist City Council policies.

“Imagine how much of your money Frances Akridge will want to tax and spend… We cannot afford to let Frances Akridge traffic in her big-government values to our City Hall,” the social media caption reads.

It continues, “Huntsville’s bright future demands fiscal responsibility and a budget that is overseen by an experienced, conservative leader. We need the conservative, proven, and principled leadership of Dr. Mary Jane Caylor.”

Caylor has an extensive resume of public service, including past experience as superintendent of Huntsville City Schools, executive director of the Huntsville Bicentennial, member of the Base Realignment and Closure recruitment team and a four-term member of the Alabama State Board of Education. She was also crucial to the establishment of the Veteran’s Memorial in downtown Huntsville.

On her website, Caylor lists education, infrastructure, community safety, supporting first responders and being a good steward of taxpayer money as top issues. Akridge names community recreation, “maintenance & enhancement” and health along with safety and education.

In response to Caylor’s ad, Akridge shared a Facebook post that read, “Huntsville municipal elections are SUPPOSED TO BE nonpartisan. And now we have this crap.” The post did not dispute any of the ties to socialist or liberal candidates or that Akridge would govern as a socialist on the city council.

According to Caylor’s campaign, in the October 9 Huntsville City Council District 2 election, “the choice is clear: Socialist Frances Akridge or Conservative Mary Jane Caylor.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 hours ago

Maddox kicks off bus tour in Alabama governor’s race

Gubernatorial challenger Walt Maddox kicked off a statewide bus tour Monday, taking his message on the road as he seeks to gain ground against incumbent Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey.

The Democratic nominee began the tour in Tuscaloosa where he is mayor.

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Describing himself as the only candidate in the race talking about the state’s “big problems,” Maddox is running on a platform of establishing a state lottery to fund education programs and expanding Medicaid.

Standing with his wife, Stephanie and his two children, Maddox said the race is about ensuring the state’s children have opportunities.

“Our state is not where it needs to be. We are at, or near, the bottom in everything that matters, everything,” Maddox said. “And they deserve to grow up in a state that can provide them the opportunities that I’ve had, that your families have had.”

Alabama has not elected a Democrat to the governor’s office since 1998 when Don Siegelman won after campaigning on a lottery that voters later rejected.

To win, Maddox will need support from some Republicans and independents, similarly to U.S. Sen. Doug Jones and his victory over Roy Moore last year.

Maddox said he thinks he can do that by talking about the issues that affect people’s lives.

He joked he won his first convert in 2010 with his wedding to wife Stephanie, who is a Republican.

Maddox said he hopes to speak with all sorts of voters during the tour, including those “who may or may not vote for you. … But that doesn’t matter because when you put your hand on that Bible, you represent everyone.”

Maddox is proposing a state lottery to fund college scholarships and other education programs.

He said expanding Medicaid, as 34 states have done, could stop the closure of rural hospitals, which have been shuttering in rural communities due to financial pressures.

“If you are in Haleyville, Alabama right now you’ve had to experience an increase in taxes because your hospital is on the verge of closing.

If you are in Alex City right now, your hospital could close. All because we didn’t expand Medicaid.”

Maddox also continued to take jabs at Ivey for refusing to debate him.

The Republican incumbent said last week that there was no need for a debate because “Alabamians know my record. They know what I stand for.”

“One thing Governor Ivey can’t avoid is the Nov. 6 election,” Maddox said. “The people will ultimately determine this with their ballot. It doesn’t hurt me that she doesn’t want to debate. It hurts the people of Alabama.”
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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