Federal judges on Monday blocked Alabama's Congressional map and ordered the Republican-majority legislature to redraw a new map that matches the state's demographics, and has two Congressional districts with a substantial amount of Black voters.
The three-judge panel, including two judges appointed by former President Trump and one circuit judge appointed by former President Clinton, said the latest Congressional map violates the Voting Rights Act by drawing only one seat where Black voters make up a majority or plurality of the district.
"Black voters have less opportunity than other Albamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress," the judges wrote. "Any remedial plan will need to include two districts in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it."
Alabama's Black residents currently make up 26.8% of the state's population, and account for 34% of the state's entire population increase last decade. The majority were drawn into Alabama's 7th district, which has a Black voting age population of over 54%, according to the Princeton Gerrymandering Project.
The state's remaining Black population is split up amongst the 1st, 2nd and 3rd districts, which all have a Black voting age population of over 24%.
The federal court's decision is the second time in recent weeks that a Congressional map in a Republican state has been struck down. Ohio's Supreme Courtdue to partisan gerrymandering. North Carolina's Supreme Court will take up a similar case in February.
The U.S. District Court also ordered Alabama's candidate filing deadline to be moved from January 28 to February 11, to allow time for the Republican-majority legislature to draw new lines. If they are unable to pass a plan in time, the court will order an expert to help draw a map.
The office of Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, a Republican, says they "strongly disagree with the court's decision" and that they will appeal it to the U.S. Circuit Court "in the coming days."
If the U.S. Circuit Court upholds the prior decision, a path to the U.S. Supreme Court is possible.
"Alabama's previous congressional map was precleared by Eric Holder's Justice Department on November 21, 2011," said Adam Kincaid, executive director of the National Republican Redistricting Trust. "The new map maintains the status quo. It does not violate Section 2 of the VRA under the current application of the law and should be upheld."
Democratic Congresswoman Terri Sewell, who represents Alabama's lone majority-minority seat in Alabama's 7th district, has long advocated for the "unpacking" of Black voters in her area.
"Increasing political representation of Black Alabamians is exactly what John Lewis and the Foot Soldiers who marched across the bridge in my hometown of Selma fought for," she said in a statement Monday. "I am carefully reviewing the opinion and I look forward to working with the Alabama Legislature to fulfill the court's mandate."
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