Voters in Alabama’s new congressional district vote in primary runoffs : NPR

Voters head to the polls in Alabama’s newly drawn second congressional district on Tuesday. That district includes Montgomery, Ala, seen here on June 5, 2018.

Butch Dill/AP

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Butch Dill/AP

Voters head to the polls in Alabama’s newly drawn second congressional district on Tuesday. That district includes Montgomery, Ala, seen here on June 5, 2018.

Butch Dill/AP

Voters in Alabama’s new congressional district are returning to the polls Tuesday to decide who they think would best represent them in a race that could ultimately tip the balance of power in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Tuesday’s runoffs comes after no candidate in either party, Democratic or Republican, was able to secure enough votes on Super Tuesday to avoid a runoff. (Polls close at 8 p.m. ET, and NPR will have results.)

A district drawn to boost Black representation

The newly drawn district lines came following a legal battle that reached the U.S. Supreme Court. Advocates for Black voters in Alabama claimed the state’s previous congressional map, approved by a Republican-dominated state legislature, violated the Voting Rights Act.

As NPR’s legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg explained at the time of the high court ruling last year:

“At issue in the case was Alabama’s congressional redistricting plan, adopted after the 2020 census. The Republican-dominated legislature drew new district lines that packed large numbers of Black voters into one congressional district, and then spread out the remaining Black population in other districts so that Black voters had little chance of electing a second representative of their choice in a racially polarized state.

A three-judge district court panel that included two Trump appointed judges found that the state legislature’s plan amounted to an illegal racial gerrymander under the Voting Rights Act. And …  the Supreme Court agreed.”

‘This is a community’

Some voters, like Lisa Williams, who lives in Mobile, Ala., hopes the candidate who ultimately wins can put politics aside and do what’s best for the district.

“It’s an opportunity for whichever candidate to truly be a voice, to truly give a voice to a lot of these communities, black or white, it doesn’t matter. It’s not a race thing,” Williams said. “This is a people thing. This is a community.”

After Tuesday, candidates will have about seven months to make their case to voters in a district that stretches from the state capital in Montgomery down to Mobile in the Southwestern corner of the state and touches the state’s border with Georgia. The new district is part urban, part rural, and has a Black voting-age population of nearly 50%.

Democratic candidate Shomari Figures, who is one of two candidates on his party’s primary ballot, already has name recognition in much of the district, given he’s from Mobile and his parents Michael and Vivian Figures served in the state senate. Figures also worked for Attorney General Merrick Garland and in former President Barack Obama’s administration.

His primary challenger, Alabama House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, is hoping his advocacy for tax breaks on overtime pay and his time navigating a Republican super-majority in Montgomery will appeal to voters.

On the Republican side, Dick Brewbaker is also hoping his time as a former state senator will help him win his party’s nomination. On the campaign trail, Brewbaker promotes a conservative agenda, calling for tougher border policies and curbing federal spending.

His primary rival, Caroleene Dodson, an attorney in Montgomery, has set her sights on the district’s rural voters saying, if elected, she would push for reduced federal regulation in the agricultural section. Dodson, like her opponent, is also campaigning on tightening U.S. border policies but says she also supports streamlining the farm worker-visa process.