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Federal court rejects latest Alabama congressional map

The judges criticized the state for failing to follow the Supreme Court order to create a second opportunity district for Black voters.

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A federal court today rejected Alabama’s new congressional map due to its failure to remedy the violation of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965, ordering a special master redraw the map to include two districts where Black voters have an opportunity to elect candidates of their choice.

“Once again, Alabama has openly defied our laws in order to disenfranchise Black voters,” said Deuel Ross, senior counsel for Legal Defense Fund and lead attorney for the plaintiffs. “Thankfully, the district court has rejected Alabama’s defiance. The court has once again confirmed that Black voters deserve two opportunity districts. We look forward to ensuring that the special master draws a map that provides Black voters with the full representation in Congress that they deserve.”

The judges sharply criticized the state for failing to follow through on the orders of the U.S. Supreme Court.

“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,” the judges wrote.

In June, following a legal challenge in Allen v. Milligan, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling that struck down Alabama’s 2021 map and required a new map that no longer illegally dilutes the power of Black voters in Alabama. The initial map denied Black voters an opportunity to elect candidates of their choice in all but one of seven districts — even though Black voters make up 27 percent of the voting-age population.

The Alabama Legislature convened in July and created a new map that has now also been found to be discriminatory and fails to comply with the Voting Rights Act, prompting plaintiffs to continue their challenge. 

“Our nation’s highest court required Alabama to draw a map to fairly represent Black voters — yet the state refused,” said the plaintiffs in a joint statement Tuesday. “Alabama openly admits its intention to defy the law and the U.S. Supreme Court. But we will not back down. Sixty years ago, former Governor George Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door to stop Black people from desegregating the University of Alabama. He moved only when the federal government forced him to do so. History is repeating itself and the district court’s decision confirms that Alabama is again on the losing side. We demand that Alabama again move out of the way and obey our laws — we demand our voting rights.”

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Plaintiffs were back in court on Aug. 14 for a hearing challenging the Legislature’s 2023 proposed map. 

Plaintiffs Evan Milligan, Khadidah Stone, Letetia Jackson, Shalela Dowdy, Greater Birmingham Ministries, and the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP are represented by the Legal Defense Fund, American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Alabama, Hogan Lovells LLP, and Wiggins, Childs, Pantazis, Fisher & Goldfarb.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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