The struggle over Alabama’s congressional redistricting now shifts again to federal court docket

Standing at an Alabama Statehouse microphone earlier than lawmakers voted on new congressional districts, state Rep. Chris England stated that change within the Deep South state has usually occurred solely by way of federal court docket order.

The Democratic lawmaker accused Republicans of repeating historical past and flouting a judicial mandate to create a second majority-Black district within the state or “something quite close to it.”

“Alabama does what Alabama does. Ultimately, what we are hoping for, I guess, at some point, is that the federal court does what it always does to Alabama: Forces us to the right thing. Courts always have to come in and save us from ourselves,” stated England, a Black lawmaker from Tuscaloosa.

The struggle over whether or not Alabama’s congressional map complies with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 now shifts again to federal court docket as state Republicans submit their new plan to the identical three-judge panel that struck down the earlier districts.

The consequence may have penalties throughout the nation because the case once more weighs the necessities of the Voting Rights Act in redistricting. It may additionally impression the partisan leanings of 1 Alabama congressional district within the 2024 elections with management of the U.S House of Representatives at stake.

Alabama lawmakers on Friday permitted new district strains six weeks after the shock U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding a decrease court docket ruling that the state’s earlier map — with one Black-majority district out of seven in a state that’s 27% Black — probably violated the Voting Rights Act by diluting the voting energy of Black residents.

The state’s Republican legislative supermajority boosted the share of Black voters within the majority-white 2nd Congressional District, now represented by Republican Rep. Barry Moore, from about 31% to nearly 40%. The plan additionally dropped the Black voting-age inhabitants within the state’s sole majority Black district, now represented by Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell, to 50.65%.

A bunch of voters who gained the U.S. Supreme Court choice introduced that they may problem the brand new plan. The three-judge panel has set an Aug. 14 listening to on the brand new plan and will finally order a particular grasp to attract new strains for the state.

“The Alabama Legislature believes it is above the law. What we are dealing with is a group of lawmakers who are blatantly disregarding not just the Voting Rights Act, but a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court and a court order from the three-judge district court,” the plaintiffs stated in a press release. “Even worse, they continue to ignore constituents’ pleas to ensure the map is fair and instead remain determined to rob Black voters of the representation we deserve,” the plaintiffs stated.

Alabama will argue that the map complies with the court docket order and adheres to different redistricting rules akin to holding districts compact and never dividing communities of curiosity.

“The Legislature’s new plan fully and fairly applies traditional principles in a way that complies with the Voting Rights Act. Contrary to mainstream media talking points, the Supreme Court did not hold that Alabama must draw two majority-minority districts,” state Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office said in a statement. ”Instead, the Court made clear that the VRA by no means requires adoption of districts that violate conventional redistricting rules.”

In a July 13 letter to the state legislative redistricting committee, Marshall stated the plaintiffs within the case “now demand a plan that gives not only a ‘fair chance’ to compete, however as an alternative a assure of Democratic victories in not less than two districts.”

Republicans, who have been reluctant to create a Democratic-leaning district, are gambling that the court will accept their proposal or that the state will prevail in a second round of appeals. In his letter, Marshall noted that Justice Brett Kavanaugh only partly joined with the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling against Alabama.

“I’m confident that we’ve done a good job. It will be up to the courts to decide whether they agree,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Reed, a Republican from Jasper.

The three-judge panel that struck down Alabama’s existing map in 2022 said the “appropriate remedy” is a map with a second majority-Black district or “an additional district in which Black voters otherwise have an opportunity to elect a representative of their choice.” The judges added that it should include a second majority-Black district or “one thing fairly near it.”

The which means of “opportunity” dominated a lot of the ground debate within the Legislature as Democrats criticized the GOP proposal they stated would make sure the reconfigured district stays underneath white Republican management.

“Your opportunity district gives you a majority-white population. … It’s not an opportunity to win. It’s an opportunity to lose,” stated Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, a Democrat from Greensboro.

Reed stated the court docket didn’t give state lawmakers a definition of alternative, however he argued that the district had been considerably altered.

“If you look at the difference at what the district was before and what the district is now, is there a greater opportunity for others to be elected there other than Republicans? I think the answer is yes,” Reed stated.

An evaluation by The Associated Press, utilizing redistricting software program, reveals that the 2nd District map permitted Friday has largely voted for Republicans in current statewide elections. Donald Trump gained the district by practically 10 share factors in his 2020 reelection bid.

Alabama was the location of a court docket case that led to the Supreme Court choice that successfully ended the requirement within the Voting Rights Act that states with a historical past of racial discrimination in voting, primarily within the South, get Washington’s approval earlier than altering the best way they maintain elections.

With the present struggle over a congressional map, some Alabama Democrats accused Republicans of attempting to impress one other problem to the landmark civil rights legislation.

“I’m really disappointed in my colleagues who want to tee up the Voting Rights Act up to be gutted,” Singleton stated.


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