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

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Voting rights activists in Alabama are taking their battle to court once again, arguing that the state’s newly redrawn congressional districts fail to comply with federal court orders to create a fair district for Black voters. Plaintiffs in the redistricting case filed an objection on Friday, accusing state Republicans of disregarding a judicial mandate to establish a second majority-Black district or something very close to it. They argue that the map currently in place continues to discriminate against Black voters in the state.

In 2022, a special three-judge panel blocked the use of Alabama’s existing districts and ordered that any new congressional map should include two districts where Black voters either make up a voting-age majority or something close to it. The state appealed the decision, but it was upheld in June by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court agreed that having only one Black-majority district out of seven in a state where more than a quarter of the population is Black likely violated federal law.

The plaintiffs, represented by the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund and other groups, have asked the three-judge panel to intervene and draw new district lines for the state. They argue that Alabama’s new congressional map blatantly ignores the court’s preliminary injunction order and perpetuates the violation of the Voting Rights Act that led to the redrawing of the map initially.

The new map, enacted by the Republican-controlled Alabama Legislature, maintains one majority-Black district but increases the percentage of Black voters in the majority-white 2nd Congressional District. Lawyers representing the plaintiffs argue that this revised district does not realistically provide Black voters with the opportunity to elect their preferred candidates, except in extreme situations. They accuse state Republicans of disregarding the court’s directive, prioritizing a district that would remain under GOP control in order to maintain the Republican Party’s slim majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Alabama officials argue that the new plan complies with the Voting Rights Act and are confident that the panel will accept their proposal or that the state will ultimately prevail in a second round of appeals to the Supreme Court. Republicans contend that the map meets the court’s requirements and creates compact districts that adhere to redistricting guidelines.

The state is required to file its defense of the map by August 4th. The three judges have scheduled a hearing for August 14th, as the legal battle over the map shifts back to federal court. The outcome of this case could have significant implications nationwide, as it again explores the application of the Voting Rights Act in redistricting. Furthermore, it could impact the partisan makeup of one Alabama congressional district in the 2024 elections, potentially influencing control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who is also the chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, condemned Alabama’s new map, calling it a brazen defiance of the courts. Holder compared the situation to that of George Wallace, an Alabama governor who defied the courts, stating that the result is a shameful display that would have made Wallace proud.

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