Evan Milligan, lead plaintiff in Allen vs Milligan redistricting case, speaks in front of U. S. Supreme Court at rally, when case was heard and decided 5 to 4 in favor of Black voting rights in Alabama.
By: Zach Schonfeld, The Hill, with some additional materials from other sources
A three-judge panel struck down Alabama’s new congressional map Tuesday, finding the GOP-led state fell short of complying with the Supreme Court’s recent directive.
The ruling paves the way for a court-appointed official to instead draw the lines for the 2024 election cycle.
“And we are struck by the extraordinary circumstance we face,” the federal judges wrote in a 196-page opinion.
“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,” they continued.
The ruling orders a court-appointed special master to submit three new maps by Sept. 25 that fix the dilution of Black voters in the state. It could provide a boost to Democrats as they attempt to retake the U. S. House of Representatives in 2024.There are similar redistricting cases, under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act in Louisiana, Florida, Georgia ,North Carolina, Arkansas and other states.
Alabama had submitted the new map after the Supreme Court in June blocked the state’s previous iteration in a 5-4 decision for likely violating the Voting Rights Act. Alabama’s map included one majority-Black district out of the state’s seven total districts, despite 27 percent of the state’s population being Black.
The Supreme Court’s decision affirmed a lower ruling that mandated the state draw new lines that “will need to include two districts in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it.”
But the Republican-led legislature then refused to draw a second majority-Black district.
It instead maintained Alabama’s one majority-Black district — which is represented by the state’s lone congressional Democrat, Congresswoman Terri Sewell, — and only increased the percentage of Black voters in the 2nd Congressional District from 30 percent to 40 percent. The Legislature’s plan reduced the Black voting age population in Sewell’s district from 56% to 50.5%
“We discern no basis in federal law to accept a map the State admits falls short of this required remedy,” the judges wrote.
The panel comprised one Clinton appointee, Circuit Judge Stanley Marcus, and two Trump appointees, District Judge Anna Manasco and District Judge Terry Moorer.
State officials previously indicated the boundaries need to be finalized by about Oct. 1, so it can be in place for next year’s primary.
After the court-appointed official submits its three maps, the state or other parties will have three days to object. A hearing would then be held Oct. 3, if necessary.
“[W]e have no reason to believe that allowing the Legislature still another opportunity to draw yet another map will yield a map that includes an additional opportunity district,” the judges wrote. “Moreover, counsel for the State has informed the Court that, even if the Court were to grant the Legislature yet another opportunity to draw a map, it would be practically impossible for the Legislature to reconvene and do so in advance of the 2024 election cycle.
One group of plaintiffs — individual voters and voting rights advocates — in a joint statement said Alabama “openly admits its intention” to defy the Supreme Court and the law.
“Sixty years ago, former Governor George Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door to stop Black people from desegregating the University of Alabama,” they said. “He moved only when the federal government forced him to do so. History is repeating itself and the district court’s decision confirms that Alabama is again on the losing side. We demand that Alabama again move out of the way and obey our laws — we demand our voting rights.”
The Hill has reached out to Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall’s (R) office for comment. Knowledgeable observers of Alabama politics feel that Marshall plans to try to get the case before the Supreme Court again ,in an effort to reverse their 5 to 4 decision in favor of more and fairer representation for Black voters in the state.
Evan Milligan, the lead plaintiff in Allen v. Milligan and executive director of Alabama Forward, stated that the fight was not over to ensure fair voting maps.
“We’re thankful that the federal court heard our argument,” Milligan said. “We are thankful to the many people who also heard our argument and showed their support by filling the federal courtroom and even the overflow room a few weeks ago. Prior to that hearing, we had hoped our state legislature and governor would have heard us as well. Had they listened to the Supreme Court, we could have saved our state some money and avoided this Groundhogs’s Day loop that some in our state want us to remain trapped within. Nevertheless, we know that fair maps provide a way out of this trap. And we will do every decent thing in our power to ensure that our state produces district maps that comply with the Voting Rights Act our elders fought and died to realize for us. Amen and onward.”
Anneshia Hardy, executive director of Alabama Values, also commented stating, “The court’s decision to strike down the state’s unfair and discriminatory congressional map for the second time underscores the urgency and necessity for organizers, advocates, and community members to continue to demand fair and equitable representation. While we share in the collective relief and hope that springs from this ruling, our focus remains on the journey ahead. The fight for fair representation is far from over, and Alabama Values remains diligent in ensuring that the redrawing process is transparent, inclusive, and truly reflective of our state’s diverse population. We deeply appreciate the ongoing support and engagement from Alabamians across the state, and we will continue to champion the cause for fair maps. This isn’t just about lines on a map; it’s about the rights, voices, and futures of Alabamians”