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Alabama's GOP Approves New Maps; Dems Vow Repeat Court Fight

The new maps were pushed by the entire GOP and approved with party-line votes in the Senate and the House

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    Alabama's GOP Approves New Maps; Dems Vow Repeat Court Fight
    AP
    Alabama Representative Juandalynn Givan, House Judiciary Committee member, asks a question of Jack Sharman, House Judiciary Committee special council, while he speaks to the Alabama House Judiciary Committee during a hearing on Gov. Robert Bentley's impeachment Monday, April 10, 2017, in Montgomery, Ala. Alabama lawmakers began impeachment hearings for Bentley as they consider whether to try ousting the governor over accusations he used state resources to hide a relationship with a top aide.

    Alabama's GOP-controlled legislature sent new legislative maps to the governor on Friday, with only hours left in a rancorous session that boiled over when one white Republican shared an email comparing state lawmakers to monkeys.

    The Senate's approval came despite objections from Democrats who say the new map is still gerrymandered to maintain white GOP dominance. Gov. Kay Ivey is expected to sign it.

    Republican leaders say they're confident they've addressed problems found by federal courts, but black lawmakers said it remains unconstitutional because they made only minimal changes.

    The new maps were pushed by the entire GOP and approved with party-line votes in the Senate and the House. Tensions boiled over on the House floor Thursday after one white Republican sent around an email about spraying monkeys with water to teach them not to reach for bananas.

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    The e-mail drew a direct comparison to "today's House and Senate" and concluded that "ALL of the monkeys need to be REPLACED."

    That caused outrage among Democrats. They had spent days using procedural tactics to delay a vote on the plan they say is designed to minimize the influence of black voters. Some recalled how police used water hoses against civil rights protesters.

    Rep. Lynn Greer of Rogersville apologized for sharing the email and Speaker Mac McCutcheon asked lawmakers to hold hands and pray, but emotions remained raw.

    Passage of the latest redistricting plan and a separate measure preventing any changes to Confederate monuments were among the issues that consumed the final hours of the legislation session.

    "It seems like we are going to end up in court again," said Legislative Black Caucus Chairman John Knight, D-Montgomery. "It's clear. You can look at the map. There is racial gerrymandering."

    Federal judges ordered lawmakers in January to redraw some lines before the 2018 elections, saying Republicans had improperly made race the predominant factor in drawing districts.

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    The Legislative Black Caucus and the Alabama Democratic Conference had sued, arguing that African-American voters were "stacked and packed" into designated minority districts to make neighboring districts whiter and more Republican.

    Black Democrats complained that they had been left out of decisions on the new bill, even though it was their lawsuit that led to the U.S. Supreme Court order for judges to review and reject the previous map.

    The tensions spilled over into emotional displays inside the Capitol.

    "The issue in this building is racism exists in the Alabama Legislature," Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, said on the House floor.