Three judge federal panel to resume reworking Alabama's Congressional map
Three new versions of Alabama’s Congressional map will go under the scrutiny of a three-judge federal panel on Tuesday. The stated goal of this process is to create a second African American majority district in the state. Alabama’s Republican Attorney General opposes all three plans. Steve Marshall calls the effort racial gerrymandering. The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for today’s hearing by rejecting an appeal from Alabama GOP lawmakers.
A group of Black voters and advocacy organizations challenged the state's existing congressional plan in 2021. Plaintiffs had argued Alabama racially gerrymandered congressional lines so that Black voters were unable to influence elections outside of the state's single majority-Black district.
A three-judge panel later found the state illegally diluted the voting strength of Black voters and ordered new districts drawn for the state. The panel is also stepping in to draw the new lines after Republican lawmakers defied their finding that Alabama — which is 27% Black — should have a second-majority Black district or something "close to it."
The three proposals, submitted last month by the court-appointed special master, would alter the boundaries of Congressional District 2 in south Alabama so that Black voters comprise between 48.5% to 50.1% of the voting age population.
The plaintiffs urged the court to adopt either proposed Plan 1 or Plan 3, saying that those adequately remedy the Voting Rights Act violation. They said the special master's analysis concluded that the Black-preferred candidate would have won election in 15 or 16 out of 17 contests.
Plaintiffs objected to Plan 2 and said it "fails to reliably provide Black voters an opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice." They said an analysis shows that it would continue to elect candidates backed by white voters.
"A district where the Black-preferred candidate wins only one of five times (20%) in the most recent congressional election cannot be considered an opportunity district," plaintiffs wrote.
The judges asked the special master to file a response to the objection by Monday.
"An argument that it is needed to guarantee a win by the candidate of choice of black voters is inconsistent with the language of Section 2, which merely requires an equally open process," the state attorney general's office wrote.
The three-judge panel earlier this month chided state lawmakers, writing that they were "deeply troubled" lawmakers flouted their instruction to create a second majority-Black district or something close to it.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said the state will continue to appeal.