Federal court strikes down Alabama congressional map for diluting Black votes – again

After ignoring the Supreme Court, the GOP’s new redistricting plan ‘plainly fails’ Black voters, judges rule

Alex Woodward
Tuesday 05 September 2023 15:03 BST
Related video: Ketanji Brown Jackson takes on Alabama’s ‘race blind’ argument in voting rights case

A federal court has struck down Alabama’s latest Republican-drawn map of its congressional districts after the US Supreme Court found that its previous attempt discriminated against the state’s Black voters.

A three-judge panel in US District Court said it was “deeply troubled” that the state approved a map that it “readily admits” does not meet its obligations to federal law.

“We are not aware of any other case in which a state legislature – faced with a federal court order declaring that its electoral plan unlawfully dilutes minority votes and requiring a plan that provides an additional opportunity district – responded with a plan that the state concedes does not provide that district,” the judges wrote in an order on 5 September.

A landmark decision from the nation’s highest court in Allen v Milligan effectively ordered Alabama’s GOP-dominated state legislature to go back to the drawing board and rewrite the state’s congressional district map, finding that that previous one violates the Voting Rights Act.

That map packed most of the state’s Black residents, who make up more than a quarter of the state’s population, into one single congressional district out of seven. Alabama Republicans instead maintained the status quo with a map that has only one district in which Black voters in the state, most of whom vote Democratic, have a chance of electing a likely candidate of their choice.

The 2023 plan has one district – currently represented by Democratic US Rep Terry Sewell – with a Black voting age population share of slightly more than 50.6 per cent. The Black voting age population in the other proposed district is 39.9 per cent.

The rest of the state’s Black voters are “cracked” across other districts, significantly diluting their voting power.

“The law requires the creation of an additional district that affords Black Alabamians, like everyone else, a fair and reasonable opportunity to elect candidates of their choice,” the judges wrote on 5 September. “The 2023 Plan plainly fails to do so.”

The order prohibits the state from moving forward with elections under the 2023 plan and directs the appointment of a special master to come up with a new map that “includes either an additional majority-Black district, or an additional district in which Black voters otherwise have an opportunity to elect a representative of their choice.”

“Alabama openly admits its intention to defy the law and the US Supreme Court. But we will not back down,” according to a joint statements from the Allen v Milligan plaintiffs.

“Sixty years ago, former Governor George Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door to stop Black people from desegregating the University of Alabama. He moved only when the federal government forced him to do so. History is repeating itself and the district court’s decision confirms that Alabama is again on the losing side,” they added. “We demand that Alabama again move out of the way and obey our laws – we demand our voting rights.”

Alabama’s Republican Secretary of State Wes Allen, who is named in the case, previously told the court that the state faces a relatively tight deadline of 1 October in order to adequately prepare for upcoming 2024 primary elections.

A statement from Mr Allen’s office to The Independent said the office will “continue to support local officials as we ensure that we are prepared to conduct safe, secure and fair elections in Alabama.”

“I, along with my team, remain committed to ensuring our election laws are followed and every legal vote is counted,” Mr Allen added.

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