A federal court has struck down the latest Alabama congressional district map drawn by Republicans after the US Supreme Court found their earlier attempt discriminated against the state's black voters.
A three-judge panel at the U.S. District Court said it was “deeply troubled” that the state approved a charter it “readily admits” does not meet its obligations under federal law.
“We know of no other case in which a state legislature—faced with a federal court ruling that its election plan unlawfully reduces minority votes and requires a plan that provides an additional district of opportunity—has responded with a plan that the state admits that it does not provide that area,” the justices wrote in a Sept. 5 order.
A landmark decision by the country's highest court 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 the previous one violated the Voting Rights Act.
This map crammed the state's most black residents, who make up more than a quarter of the state's population, into a single congressional district out of seven. Alabama Republicans have 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 to elect a potential candidate of their choice.
The 2023 plan has a district — currently represented by Democratic U.S. Rep. Terry Sewell — with a black voting-age share of just over 50.6 percent. The black voting-age population in the other proposed district is 39.9 percent.
The rest of the state's black voters are “cracked” into other districts, greatly reducing their voting power.
“The law requires the creation of an additional district that provides Black Alabamians, like all others, a fair and reasonable opportunity to elect candidates of their choice,” the justices wrote on Sept. 5. “The 2023 Plan clearly fails to do that.”
The provision bars the state from proceeding 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 they otherwise have an opportunity to elect a representative of their choice.”
“Alabama openly admits its intent to defy the law and the US Supreme Court. But we will not back down,” according to her joint statements Allen v. Milligan plaintiffs.
“Sixty years ago, former Governor George Wallace stood at the door of the school to prevent blacks from desegregating the University of Alabama. He only moved when the federal government forced him to. “History is repeating itself, and the district court's decision confirms that Alabama is once again on the losing side,” they added. “We're demanding Alabama back out and obey our laws — we're demanding our voting rights.”
Alabama's Republican Secretary of State Wes Allen, who is named in the suit, previously told the court that the state faces a relatively tight Oct. 1 deadline to adequately prepare for the upcoming 2024 primary.
Statement from Mr. Allen's office to The independent he said the office will “continue to support local officials as we ensure we are ready to conduct safe, secure and fair elections in Alabama.”
“I, along with my team, remain committed to ensuring that our election laws are followed and that every legitimate vote is counted,” Mr. Allen added.