Newswire: Alabamians, Civil Rights groups launch legal challenges over Alabama racial gerrymandering 

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Individual voters joined with civil rights and faith groups yesterday to file a pair of lawsuits in federal court challenging Alabama’s newly drawn political maps for state legislative and congressional districts.  This is the second major lawsuit questioning
The lawsuits cite Alabama’s “sordid record” of its white majority using racial discrimination to maintain power. The suits charge that the newly drawn congressional redistricting map denies Black residents equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect candidates of choice, and that both the congressional and state legislative maps result from racial gerrymanders that intentionally pack and crack Black communities in the state, which denies such communities equal protection of the laws. 
Because of this, the lawsuits describe how Alabama’s new district maps violate the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and how the congressional map also violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 
The cases were brought on behalf of Greater Birmingham Ministries, Alabama State Conference of the NAACP, and several individuals who are being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Alabama, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Hogan Lovells LLP, and the firm Wiggins, Childs, Pantazis, Fisher & Goldfarb.  
Plaintiffs are requesting a federal court step in to enjoin — or halt — the maps’ implementation to prevent harms to Black Alabamians. 
“By packing Black voters into a small number of districts and breaking up communities of color throughout the rest of the state, Alabama’s leaders are diminishing the political power of Black Alabamians. That is unlawful,” said Caren Short, senior supervising attorney for the SPLC, which represents plaintiffs in the lawsuit challenging the state legislative districts. “This builds on a long history of racial discrimination in voting in Alabama – particularly when drawing political districts – that demands a court-ordered redrawing of maps immediately.” 
New political maps are drawn as part of a once-in-a-decade redistricting process triggered by census data, that determine the allocation of political power, representation, and ultimately resource access at every level of government across the country for the next 10 years. 
“Cracking” refers to splitting communities of color into different districts to prevent them from exercising greater political power. “Packing” refers to placing people of color into the same district in greater numbers than necessary to elect candidates of choice to prevent them from exercising greater political power in surrounding districts. 
According to the lawsuits, Alabama’s steadfast refusal to address the rights of its Black residents is directly linked to its historical and present conditions of racial discrimination against Black people. 
In five of the six redistricting cycles since 1960, the U.S. Department of Justice or federal courts have found that Alabama’s legislative districts — congressional, state, or both — violate the rights of voters under the U.S. Constitution or the Voting Rights Act. 
“It is crucial that Black Alabamians have the opportunity to elect government officials we believe will best serve us,” said Benard Simelton, President of the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP, a plaintiff in both cases filed today. “Although no longer controlled by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, Alabama is still required to provide Black Alabamians that opportunity – these maps attempting to rob our state of its diversity notwithstanding. We will continue this fight for our dignity and political voice, as we long have, in the courts.” 
Again, in this latest round of drawing political districts, Alabamians had no access to potential maps during the so-called “community input” process that predated the special legislative session. Legislative leaders drew political maps in secret, and at the 11th hour, presented the maps challenged today that use race as a predominant factor in determining district lines – but not in a way tailored to comply with the Voting Rights Act. 
“I have lived most of my life in Montgomery,” said plaintiff in both lawsuits filed today Evan Milligan. “On more than one occasion, the people in these communities have dramatically impacted the course of this nation’s history – particularly as to civil and human rights…Even with the extended time provided by the delayed release of census data, our Legislature failed to study racially polarized voting so that their map-making decisions could be guided by an interest in protecting the civil rights of Alabama’s nonwhite voters.” 
The cases are Thomas v. Merrill and Milligan v. Merrill.  
To view a version of this release in full – including additional statements from plaintiffs and representatives from other counsel – please visit:
https://www.splcenter.org/presscenter/alabamians-civil-rights-groups-launch-legal-challenges-over-alabama-racial
Thomas v. Merrill complaint challenging state legislative maps: https://www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/complaint_-_thomas_v._merrill.pdf

Milligan v. Merrill complaint challenging congressional maps: https://www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/complaint_-_milligan_v._merrill.pdf

Voting rights coalition meets in Shelby County on 8th anniversary of Shelby vs Holder decision to call for an end to voter suppression

A coalition of Alabama voting rights advocates held a press conference in front of the Shelby County Courthouse in Columbiana,  Alabama to decry the lack of progress on voting rights on the eighth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Shelby County vs. Holder case. The Supreme Court’s decision gutted Sections 4 and 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which provided for pre-clearance by the U. S. Department of Justice of changes in voting laws, rules and regulations by state and local jurisdictions in the Southern statesThis decision unleashed a torrent of laws and regulations which made it more difficult for Black, Brown, poor and young people to vote around our nation. Benard Simelton, State President of the NAACP said, “We are here today in Shelby County on the 8th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s putting a knife in the back of the VRA, to call for unfettered access to the polls for all people and an end to voter suppression which is designed to depress the votes of Black, Brown and other disadvantaged people. We are not sitting back. We are actively working to fight voter suppression in all of its ways. “Laws like the one passed in Georgia to prohibit people from giving snacks and water to people on line to vote. The curbs on drop-boxes and curbside voting must be changed. The changes that affect how votes are counted. The purging of voters must all be changed,” said Simelton. Jessica Barker, Coordinator of Lift Our Vote from Huntsville, said, “We are demanding a change to end voter suppression and support our voting rights. We are here today to support the national efforts to support voting rights by passing HR 1 and S1 – The For the People Act and HR-4 The John Lewis Voter Advancement Act, in the United States Congress.” Pastor McMillan of Shelby County, said, “We are here today to try to rescue democracy for all people in Alabama and the nation. Access to the vote is not just reserved for the rich and powerful but for all of us.” Dr. Adia Winfrey of Transform Alabama spoke on her efforts to marshal the power of hip-hop culture to involve young people in the fight for voting rights and civil rights. John Zippert, SaveOurselves Coalition for Justice and Democracy linked the struggle for voting rights with other social change campaigns that SOS is working on including Medicaid Expansion, Criminal Justice Reform, Economic Justice and Worker’s Rights. Rachel Knowles, a white staff member of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said she was a native of Shelby County, grew up there and went to public schools, however, “Now I am ashamed and disappointed to be from a place that is opposed to voting rights for all people.” Rev. Carolyn Foster of the Alabama Poor People’s Campaign said, “Voting rights is a moral and systemic justice issue. We are concerned with restrictive voter ID laws, redistricting problems and the myth of voter fraud. The only way to change things and get what you want is to organize to take it.” After the Courthouse Rally, the groups moved to Orr Park in Montevalo, Alabama and held a ‘voting rights fair” with booths to register people, including the previously incarcerated, get vaccine for the coronavirus, music, food, and fellowship.

Newswire: Bernard Simelton elected to NAACP National Board of Directors

Bernard Simelton

Bernard Simelton

The Alabama State Conference of the NAACP is proud to announce that Benard Simelton who serves as President of the Alabama State Conference was elected to serve as a member of the National Board of Directors at their annual meeting in New York on February 17, 2018.
Board member James Crowell who nominated Simelton, noted his work with the special senate election in Alabama, held on Dec 12th. Crowell also mentioned the dedication and tenacity during Simelton’s tenure as the Alabama State Conference NAACP president.
After being sworn in as a National Board member, Mr. Simelton took his seat at the board meeting! “I am excited about moving forward in this new role as a National Board member and as I take the oath of office, I look forward to furthering the mission and goals of the NAACP,” said Benard Simelton.
Simelton will also continue to serve as President of the Alabama State Conference.