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Federal Court Tosses Alabama Congressional Map on Grounds it Disadvantaged Blacks

January 28, 2022 by Dan McCue
Federal Court Tosses Alabama Congressional Map on Grounds it Disadvantaged Blacks
In Alabama judges ruled that the Republican-led legislature violated the Voting Rights Act by failing to draw more than one congressional district where Black voters might elect a representative of their choice. (Mickey Welsh/The Montgomery Advertiser, via Associated Press)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A panel of three federal judges this week threw out Alabama’s newly redrawn congressional district map, holding that given the makeup of the state’s population, lawmakers involved in the redistricting process should have created two districts likely to elect Black representatives.

As it stood before being voided by Monday’s decision, the map proposed for use for the next 10 years would have had only one district where Black voters make up a majority or plurality of the district.

State Attorney General Steve Marshall has said he plans to petition the U.S. Supreme Court for a review of the case in the coming days. 

State lawmakers have until Feb. 11 to come up with a new plan.

At issue in the underlying lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Alabama and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., is the fact that, according to the 2020 Census, 27% of Alabama’s residents identify as Black and as a result, any new map being used in future elections should have at least two Black-majority districts.

If the map as proposed were allowed to stand, “Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress.”

“Any remedial plan will need to include two districts in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it,” they added.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder Jr., the chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, said in a statement the decision “is a win for Alabama’s Black voters, who have been denied equal representation for far too long.

“The map’s dilution of the voting power of Alabama’s Black community — through the creation of just one majority-Black district while splitting other Black voters apart — was as evident as it was reprehensible,” he added.

But Alabama Republican Party chairman John Wahl said this week he was disappointed by the decision, especially because the basic outlines of the state’s congressional districts have largely remained the same for decades and have been upheld in court in the past.

In 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court considered redistricting cases out of Maryland and North Carolina that looked at redistricting from two very different perspectives — whether intentional gerrymandering was done on the basis of race or for more partisan reasons.

That summer the high court ruled that federal courts have no role to play in blocking partisan gerrymanders, but said provisions of the Voting Rights Act prohibited racial gerrymandering.

If Alabama legislators do not produce and pass a new map with a second majority-Black district within 14 days, the court will appoint a special master to do so, the judges wrote. 

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.

 

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