Alabama’s congressional map has been canceled again due to the weakening of the power of black voters

Updated Sept. 5, 2023 at 10:14 a.m. ET

A panel of three federal judges has struck down the latest map of Alabama’s congressional election districts for failing to follow the court’s order to comply with the landmark Voting Rights Act.

In an order issued on Tuesday, the justices said they were “extremely troubled that the state enacted a map that the state readily admits does not provide the remedy we have said federal law requires.”

“We are not aware of any other case where a state legislature responded — faced with a federal court order declaring its electoral plan to illegally dilute the minority vote and require a plan that provides an additional opportunity area — with a plan recognized by the state that does not.” “It doesn’t provide that area,” US Circuit Judge Stanley Marcus, US District Judge Ana Manasco and US District Judge Terry Maurer said. “The law requires the creation of an additional district that provides blacks in Alabama, like everyone else, a fair and reasonable opportunity to elect candidates of their choosing. The 2023 plan clearly fails to do so.”

For the 2024 election, the justices commissioned court-appointed experts to draw three possible maps that each include two districts where black voters have a realistic chance of electing their preferred candidate. Redistricting proposals are scheduled to be submitted to the court by Sept. 25.

The justices said all parties to the case would be able to challenge motions made by the “private tutor” and cartographer in court. A hearing on any objections is tentatively scheduled for October 3.

Alabama has previously indicated in court filings that it will appeal this type of ruling to the US Supreme Court, where a majority of justices upheld the committee’s order in June.

The committee’s latest ruling is part of a long-running legal battle over a redistricting plan that could help shift the balance of power in the US House of Representatives after next year’s elections.

Before reviewing a congressional map passed by the Republican-controlled Alabama legislature in July, the three justices rejected an earlier redistricting plan approved by state lawmakers after finding that it likely violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by weakening the power of black voters in Alabama.

Of the state’s seven congressional voting districts, this plan included only one district for black voters in a state where blacks make up more than a quarter of the state’s population.

The justices instead ordered a new map containing two black voting districts, and noted that black Alabama residents would need to have a voting-age majority or “something very close to it” in each of those districts, given how racially polarized voting is in the state.

The state faces an impending logistical deadline for next year’s races. Alabama’s top election official — Secretary of State Wes Allen, a Republican — told the court that completing the redistricting plan by around Oct. 1 “would provide enough time to reassign voters, print and distribute ballots, and conduct the next 2024 primary.” Based on the new map.”

The legal battle over Alabama’s congressional districts is expected to continue with a court trial over the map to be used in the 2026 election.

edited by Benjamin Swasey

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