Perhaps no state is more closely associated with the Voting Rights Act than Alabama. Alabama's history with the VRA stretches from the historic march from Selma to Montgomery led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the wake of the tragic events of Bloody Sunday, to the Supreme Court case that ended pre-clearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act brought by Shelby County, Alabama. It is therefore fitting that Alabama is also home to a significant amount of voting rights innovation through the use of fair representation voting.
Alabama’s use of fair representation voting systems is a testament to the success of both the Voting Rights Act and the impact that fair representation systems can have on minority and women’s representation. Racial disparities in Alabama’s state and local government served as evidence for the initial enactment of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, and since that time the state has been a focal point in voting rights litigation.
Thanks to the efforts of activists like Jerome Gray, fair representation voting systems have been promoting minority representation in Alabama for almost 40 years. Mr. Gray has been a tireless promoter of fair representation systems as remedies for Voting Rights Act claims, and his personal experiences as an Alabama resident have often added to his activism. In 1982, Mr. Gray’s home county of Conecuh adopted a limited voting system as part of a settlement with the Department of Justice, becoming the first Alabama county to adopt a fair voting system. As a result, black representation on the county committee increased from 10 percent to over 40 percent.
Since then, more than 30 jurisdictions in Alabama have adopted limited and cumulative voting systems, and there has been marked improvement in representation of women as well as minorities. The number of women elected to local office in these jurisdictions nearly doubled between 1987 and 1992, and by 1998 women were elected to a majority of the council seats in at least five Alabama municipalities using fair representation voting. To learn more about fair representation voting methods and how they work, go to our proportional voting page.