Alabama's Congressional Map Is Again Rejected, With Scolding

Latest redistricting doesn't comply with court order on racial makeup, panel says
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 5, 2023 3:10 PM CDT
Alabama's Congressional Map Is Again Rejected, With Scolding
People wait outside the federal courthouse in Birmingham, Alabama, in August to watch a redistricting hearing.   (AP Photo/Kim Chandler)

Federal judges threw out Alabama's newest attempt to redraw its congressional districts on Tuesday, chastising the state for not complying with the Voting Rights Act as mandated by a court order. The plan approved by the legislature provides for a single district that has, barely, a Black majority, the Washington Post reports; overall, more than one-fourth of Alabama's residents are Black. The ruling by the panel of three US Circuit judges recognizes that redistricting is normally the purview of state legislatures. "But we have now said twice that this Voting Rights Act case is not close," the judges wrote. "And we are deeply troubled that the State enacted a map that the State readily admits does not provide the remedy we said federal law requires."

The state attorney general's office said Alabama will take the case to the US Supreme Court, per NPR, though the justices ruled on the issue in June, endorsing the panel's order calling for a second district that gives Black voters a chance "to elect candidates of their choice." The new map passed in July included a second district that was roughly 40% Black, reports the AP, though lawmakers had been instructed to include a second district where Black voters are the majority or "something quite close." With the 2024 elections nearing, the panel is having court-appointed experts draw up three potential maps by Sept. 25, each of which will have two districts in which Black voters have a realistic opportunity to elect a candidate. The judges scheduled a hearing on potential objections to those maps for Oct. 3.

A Florida judge issued a similar ruling on Saturday, saying the existing congressional map there violates the state constitution by diluting the clout of Black voters. Leon County Circuit Judge J. Lee Marsh ordered the legislature to come up with a new map that's in compliance, per the New York Times. The region in contention runs from Jacksonville to Tallahassee along the Georgia border and has a voting population that's 46% Black. Under a map put in place by the legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis in time for the 2022 midterms, it was divided into four districts that all elected white Republicans; their voting populations were between 13% and 32% Black. Under the new map, Marsh wrote, "North Florida did not elect a Black member of Congress for the first time since 1990." (More Alabama stories.)

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