The city of Mobile could consist of five non-White majority voting districts and a total of four Black-majority districts out of seven for the first time in history, if Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s first proposed redistricting plan is approved by the City Council.
The proposal, which must be presented to council in the form of an ordinance no later than Feb. 12 and is expected to change after council input, would give minority voters the opportunity to control a majority of the seven seats on the body by making District 7 majority Black. The 2020 Census figures currently have the district as 49 percent Black and 44 percent White. District 7 had a slight White majority after redistricting in 2012, and Stimpson’s proposal would leave it 55 percent Black 10 years later. Once it’s presented, the council will have six months to make changes and approve the plan, or Stimpson’s proposal will take effect automatically. The council will need five votes to approve it.
The plan, which Stimpson called a “first draft,” would also create a situation in which there are more Black residents than White residents in District 5 by a margin of 46 percent to 43 percent. Those grouped ethically as “Other” would make up the other 11 percent of the population in D5.
“We’ll have four majority-minority districts for the first time in history,” Stimpson said to a gaggle of reporters following Tuesday’s Mobile City Council meeting. “We’ve started a conversation with council members and we want to get their feedback. Then we’ll start the process of engaging the public and various groups who’ve reached out to us.”Redistricting Map Draft 2.3
In addition to a future public meeting discussing the different parts of the plan, Stimpson said the administration would be meeting with individual groups on a one-on-one basis before the proposal is presented to the council.
“Until then it’s a work in progress,” Stimpson said. “The feedback has been good so far.”
Under Stimpson’s plan, District 7 would be 55 percent Black and 37 percent White, with a total population of 27,422. In 2013, District 7 had a White population of 51 percent and a Black population of 45 percent.
The demographic differences tighten a bit when it comes to the voting-age population. If one takes voting age into consideration, Stimpson’s plan shows District 7 at 51 percent Black and 42 percent White.
District 5 will also see an increase in Black population, according to Stimpson’s proposal, but when voting age is taken into account, the district shifts back to 47 percent White and 42 percent Black.
Council President C.J. Small said he’s looking forward to working with the administration on the plan before it is introduced officially.
“I’m looking forward to looking at the numbers and working with my colleagues and the administration,” he said. “We want to make sure everything is good, according to the law and help move the city forward.”
While the city gained Black population overall, increasing the demographic majority to 51 percent, the census numbers also showed a somewhat dramatic shift to the west. The shift is evident when looking at Stimpson’s proposed district map and impacted all districts, but especially those east of Interstate 65. When asked about that shift, District 2 Councilman William Carroll mentioned the loss of various housing projects as a key to the loss in Black population in his district. In the last 10 years, Mobile Housing Board-owned complexes such as Roger Williams and Josephine Allen Homes have been torn down. Carroll was confident the district could “grow again,” especially given efforts to revitalize the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. corridor and other improvements.
In 2013, District 2 was 70 percent Black and 29 percent White, but since then, the district has lost more than 3,000 Black residents, while the White population has fallen by less than 400.
As for Stimpson’s redistricting plan, Carroll said he was “excited” to see it.
“I’m excited to see that Mobile has an opportunity to do some things with the population,” he said. “It’s good to know we’re able to follow the rules and have four minority-majority districts.”
Using 2020 Census data, it appears District 2, under its current boundaries, would be the second-smallest district in population at 23,220, trailing only District 3. Stimpson’s plan would increase that population to 26,977 and make it the third-largest district in the proposal. The Federal Voting Rights Act requires the districts to be rebalanced following a census, and each district must be no more than 6 percent above or below the mean average determined by dividing the city population by seven. The target population for each district is 26,720.
Like in most of the other districts in Stimpson’s map, District 2 would see a shift to the west, where it would pick up portions of District 1’s population along Dauphin Street. The district would remain a solid Black majority, with 59 percent to 32 percent White.
Under the plan, Districts 1 and 3 would retain solid Black majorities as well. District 1 would be 67 percent Black and District 3 would be 73 percent Black.
Those demographic numbers change a bit when voting age is taken into consideration. In District 1, the voting-age population is 66 percent Black and 30 percent White. The voting-age population in District 2 is 57 percent Black and 39 percent White. In District 3, the Black voting-age population would be set at 69 percent, while the White voting-age population would be 26 percent.
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