VRRRP Think Tank (October 5, 2023)

The National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African American Culture hosted a Voting Rights Think Tank on October 5, 2023. The Think Tank took place in the Montgomery Interpretive Center on the campus of Alabama State University.  During the day-long discussion, twelve politicians, activists, and academics, explored Congressional redistricting in Alabama, with a focus on the Allen v. Milligan United States Supreme Court redistricting case.

The day began with National Center Project Director Dr. Janice Franklin introducing Dr. Kareem Crayton, Senior Director for Voting Rights and Representation at the Washington D.C. based Brennen Center.  Dr. Crayton provided background on Congressional redistricting in Alabama, and he explained why the Supreme Court directed the state of Alabama to create two Congressional districts, thereby giving African American voters a greater opportunity to select a candidate of their choice.

The first session in the day-long discussion began with Evan Milligan, lead plaintiff in the Allen v. Milligan case.  Milligan provided an insightful analysis of the litigation.  In addition to Milligan, sessions also included analysis by State Senator Merika Coleman of Birmingham, and Chris England, a member of the Alabama House of Representatives of Tuscaloosa.  During the second session, the panelists were joined by Alabama House member, Anthony Daniels of Huntsville.

At Noon, Think Tank participants broke for lunch, where they viewed the new “Voter’s Portal” web page, a project of the Voting Rights Research Repository Project, an initiative of the National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African American Culture at Alabama State University.  This web-based resource provides both historic and contextual information on voting rights, while also serving as an on-line one-stop portal to contemporary information about voting.

The two afternoon sessions featured another set of state legislators, as well as several political organizers.  State Senators Bobby Singleton of Greensboro and Roger Smitherman of Birmingham, were joined by House members Anthony Daniels of Huntsville and Kenyatta Hassell of Montgomery.  The legislators participated in a robust discussion where they explored their decades long legislative experience around race and Congressional redistricting.

The last session featured several individuals working on voter registration and participation. Panelist including Dr. Robert White, author, radio host, and Pastor of City of Refuge, Bernard Simelton of the NAACP, voting rights strategist Samuel Duff of the ACLU, and Kynesha Brown of Rollin to the Polls.

Findings from the Think Tank are available through several channels.  A review of the program’s findings has been published in a 25-page report written report by Alabama State University Professor of Political Science, Reginia Moorer.  In addition, excerpts of the four-hour discussion are accessible on several social media outlets.  Both the report and the video are available on the Voter’s Portal webpage.

The Voting Rights Think Tank was made possible through funding provided by Alabama State Senator Kirk Hatcher, and in consultation with political consultant Felix Parker.