Editor’s Note: This is an opinion column.
By Paul DeMarco
This past week the Alabama Legislature concluded its special session called by Governor Kay Ivey to address the once every ten-year reapportionment of Alabama’s legislative, School Board, and Congressional districts.
And unfortunately, it created another black eye for the lawmakers and the way some conduct business.
Over the past four years, there have been instances when some members of this body of state representatives and senators earned the reputation for ramming through legislation without the transparency the public is owed by its elected officials.
Even when the rest of the state opened up during the pandemic, the statehouse had remained hard to access to the public, and our ability to watch bills being debated and considered was diminished, which makes the way maps were passed and the response of those in charge of drawing them even more frustrating.
After months of lobbyists, and those paying for the lobbyist, drawing maps in secret, our maps for the next decade were approved despite the fact they were not released for the public until hours before the reapportionment committee voted on them. Maps then were passed without any changes requested by the public or some fellow members.
Repeated requests from constituents across the state, as well as from some members of the legislature, were flippantly dismissed by reapportionment leaders based solely on the scare tactics that any changes would immediately lead to lawsuits and that there was not enough time to debate changes despite months of maps being drawn in secret and revealed at the last minute.
Of course, these arguments were hollow, as numerous maps were able to be proposed and viewed instantaneously with the same transparency as those proposed from insiders. Of course, within days of passage, lawsuits have already been filed.
Poll after poll indicates that American’s have never had less trust in government than they do now. The hard part of governing is allowing feedback, hearing multiple sides, and being willing to change your mind. Sadly, the Alabama redistricting process showed how little regard some leaders have for Alabama citizens and why voters choose change time and time again.
In districts drawn of their choosing, Alabama elected officials will be up for election next year. Call after call to leaders of the Reapportionment committee and some elected leaders were received with dismissiveness, disdain, and a charge to “reach out to your own member.”
Elections are our chance to do just that.
Paul DeMarco is a former member of the Alabama House of Representatives.