Alabama lawmakers to convene to redraw maps US high court declared unfair to Black voters

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The outside of the Alabama State Capitol building on a sunny day. The Alabama flag and American flag fly at the top of the capitol building's dome.

The Alabama State Capitol building in Montgomery, Ala., on March 7, 2023.

Mary Scott Hodgin, WBHM

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama’s governor on Tuesday set a special legislative session to redraw congressional district maps that the U.S. Supreme Court declared unfair to Black voters.

Gov. Kay Ivey set the July 17 session for the Republican-controlled Alabama Legislature after the high court upheld a three-judge panel’s ruling that the state illegally diluted the political power of Black voters by having only one majority Black congressional district. The three-judge panel gave officials until July 21 to submit redrawn maps or the court will draw its own.

“The Alabama Legislature has one chance to get this done before the July 21 court deadline,” Ivey said in a statement. “Our Legislature knows our state, our people and our districts better than the federal courts or activist groups do.”

The U.S. Supreme Court this month affirmed the panel’s finding that Alabama likely violated the Voting Rights Act with a congressional map that had only one majority Black district out of seven in a state where more than one in four residents is Black. The panel said that Alabama should have “two districts in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it.”

“I’m hoping that this is a time where our elected officials choose to put Alabama on the right side of the Voting Rights Act,” said Evan Milligan, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit that led to the redistricting order. “We spend a lot of time, energy, money, fighting against things that would really benefit a lot of people.”

The Supreme Court decision sets up Alabama’s first significant revamp of its congressional districts in 30 years. Courts at the time had ordered Alabama to draw a majority-Black district, which led to the election of the state’s first Black congressman since Reconstruction.

This time, plaintiffs have proposed a new map where the voting-age population in the state’s 2nd congressional district, now represented by Republican Rep. Barry Moore, would be 50% Black. It would stretch across state to include some Black Belt counties and parts of Mobile County.

“Any plan that proposes remedial districts in which Black voters constitute less than ‘a voting-age majority or something quite close to it’ almost certainly will not conform to the district court’s order,” lawyers for plaintiffs wrote to the Legislative Committee on Reapportionment.

The committee, which will draft the lines to be considered by lawmakers in the July 17 special session, is expected to hold its first meeting Tuesday afternoon. House Speaker Pro Tem Chris Pringle, who serves on the committee, said they have already received dozens of proposed maps.

“We’re looking at everything now and everything that has been submitted by the public and the plaintiffs,” Pringle said.

Rep. Chris England, a Democratic member of the committee, said the state is under an obligation to follow the court’s directive.

“My primary concern is accomplishing the objectives of the Voting Rights Act and creating sustainable districts that perform well,” England said.

 

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