A panel of three federal judges has struck down Alabama’s latest map of congressional election districts for not following a court order to comply with the landmark Voting Rights Act.
In an order released Tuesday, the judges said they are “deeply troubled that the State enacted a map that the State readily admits does not provide the remedy we said federal law requires.”
“We are not aware of any other case in which a state legislature — faced with a federal court order declaring that its electoral plan unlawfully dilutes minority votes and requiring a plan that provides an additional opportunity district — responded with a plan that the state concedes does not provide that district,” said U.S. Circuit Judge Stanley Marcus, U.S. District Judge Anna Manasco and U.S. District Judge Terry Moorer. “The law requires the creation of an additional district that affords Black Alabamians, like everyone else, a fair and reasonable opportunity to elect candidates of their choice. The 2023 Plan plainly fails to do so.”
The U.S. Supreme Court had issued a decision in June upholding the panel’s earlier ruling, which found that the Alabama legislature drew congressional districts that unlawfully diluted the political power of Black residents in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act. The three-judge panel had ordered the state to produce a new congressional map that included either an additional majority-Black district or a second district in which Black voters otherwise would have an opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice.
The ruling — which Alabama is planning to appeal — further bolsters challenges of maps drawn by GOP-led legislatures in several Southern states, where Democrats and civil rights groups have brought lawsuits arguing that Republicans are illegally diluting the power of Black voters. The outcome of these challenges has the potential to shift the political makeup of federal and state legislative bodies, including which party controls Congress.
A trial beginning Tuesday in Georgia could help Democrats gain a U.S. House seat and multiple seats in the state legislature if a judge strikes down GOP-drawn maps for illegally diluting Black voting power. A similar lawsuit brought by civil rights organizations is taking place in Tennessee.
The federal court will appoint a cartographer and will redraw the map to include a second majority Black congressional district, because the Alabama GOP was drawing their maps in such a way to exclude Black representation in the state. The district court did not hold back in their ruling regarding the actions of the Alabama GOP. The court notes the decision isn’t a close call. Rather, it is intentional, overt racism by the Alabama legislature. And not only that, but it’s unprecedented in how flagrantly the Alabama legislature saw a Supreme Court ruling, saw this district court’s prior ruling, and just ignored it and virtually said, “We’re going to violate the law, we don’t care at all.”
The legislature thought they could delay and through their lack of action, force this illegal map to be used in the upcoming 2024 elections. The district court, which, by the way, includes two Trump-appointed judges and one Clinton appointee, was having none of it. The court said what Alabama did here was such a flagrant violation, that intervention needs to be taken immediately by the federal court.