Plaintiffs in voting rights case urge judges to toss Alabama’s new congressional map

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A map of a GOP proposal to redraw Alabama's congressional districts is displayed at the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., Tuesday, July 18, 2023.

Kim Chandler, AP Photo

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Voting rights activists are returning to court to fight Alabama’s redrawn congressional districts, saying state Republicans failed to follow federal court orders to create a district that is fair to Black voters.

Plaintiffs in the high-profile redistricting case filed a written objection Friday to oppose Alabama’s new redistricting plan. They accused state Republicans of flouting a judicial mandate to create a second majority-Black district or “something quite close to it” and enacting a map that continues to discriminate against Black voters in the state.

A special three-judge panel in 2022 blocked use of the the state’s existing districts and said any new congressional map should include two districts where “Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority” or something close. That panel’s decision was appealed by the state but upheld in June in a surprise ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, which concurred that having only one Black-majority district out of seven — in a state where more than one in four residents is Black — likely violated federal law.

The plaintiffs in the case, represented by the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund and other groups, asked the three-judge panel to step in and draw new lines for the state.

“Alabama’s new congressional map ignores this court’s preliminary injunction order and instead perpetuates the Voting Rights Act violation that was the very reason that the Legislature redrew the map,” lawyers representing the plaintiffs in the case wrote.

The new map enacted by the Republican-controlled Alabama Legislature maintained one-majority Black district but boosted the percentage of Black voters in the majority-white 2nd Congressional District, now represented by Republican Rep. Barry Moore, from about 30% to 39.9%

Lawyers representing plaintiffs in the case wrote Friday that the revamped district “does not provide Black voters a realistic opportunity to elect their preferred candidates in any but the most extreme situations.” They accused state Republicans of ignoring the courts’ directive to prioritize a district that would stay under GOP control “pleasing national leaders whose objective is to maintain the Republican Party’s slim majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

Alabama has maintained the new plan complies with the Voting Rights Act, and state leaders are wagering that the panel will accept their proposal or that the state will prevail in a second round of appeals to the Supreme Court. Republicans argued that the map meets the court’s directive and draws compact districts that comply with redistricting guidelines.

The state must file its defense of the map by Aug. 4. The three judges have scheduled an Aug. 14 hearing in the case as the fight over the map shifts back to federal court.

The outcome could have consequences across the country as the case again weighs the requirements of the Voting Rights Act in redistricting. It could also impact the partisan leanings of one Alabama congressional district in the 2024 elections with control of the U.S House of Representatives at stake.

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, said in a statement that Alabama’s new map is a “brazen defiance” of the courts.

“The result is a shameful display that would have made George Wallace—another Alabama governor who defied the courts—proud,” Holder said in a statement.

 

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