Federal court strikes down Alabama congressional map for diluting Black votes – again

A federal court has struck down Alabama’s latest Republican-drawn map of its congressional districts after the US Supreme Court found that its previous attempt discriminated against the state’s Black voters.

A three-judge panel in US District Court said it was “deeply troubled” that the state approved a map that it “readily admits” does not meet its obligations to federal law.

“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 an order on 5 September.

A landmark decision from the nation’s highest court in Allen v Milligan effectively ordered Alabama’s GOP-dominated state legislature to go back to the drawing board and rewrite the state’s congressional district map, finding that that previous one violates the Voting Rights Act.

That map packed most of the state’s Black residents, who make up more than a quarter of the state’s population, into one single congressional district out of seven.

Alabama Republicans instead maintained the status quo with a map that has only one district in which Black voters in the state, most of whom vote Democratic, have a chance of electing a likely candidate of their choice.

The plan has one district – currently represented by Democratic US Rep Terry Sewell – with a Black voting age population share of slightly more than 50.6 per cent. The Black voting age population in the other proposed district is 39.9 per cent.

The rest of the state’s Black voters are “cracked” across other districts, significantly diluting their voting power.

“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 judges wrote on 5 September. “The 2023 Plan plainly fails to do so.”

The order prohibits the state from moving forward with elections under the 2023 plan and directs lawmakers to come up with a new map that “includes either an additional majority-Black district, or an additional district in which Black voters otherwise have an opportunity to elect a representative of their choice.”

This is a developing story