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

Newswire: Civil Rights groups sue Georgia over new sweeping voter suppression law 

ATLANTA — Civil rights groups have filed a new federal lawsuit against Georgia’s sweeping law that makes it much harder for all Georgians to vote, particularly voters of color, new citizens, and religious communities. The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Georgia, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), and law firms WilmerHale and Davis Wright Tremaine brought the case on behalf of the Sixth District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Georgia Muslim Voter Project, Women Watch Afrika, Latino Community Fund Georgia, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.  The law being challenged is S.B. 202, which was passed by the Georgia House of Representatives and Senate and signed by Gov. Brian Kemp in under seven hours last Thursday. These elected officials’ actions follow the 2020 presidential election and the 2021 runoff elections for two seats to the U.S. Senate that saw record turnout of voters, particularly Black voters, in Georgia. The elections were celebrated not just for their turnout, but also for their integrity, with Georgia officials praising them as safe and secure. But rather than act to expand participation in the political process, Georgia leaders responded by doing what they have done many times in the state’s history: they placed burdensome, unjustified, and unnecessary restrictions on voters, particularly voters of color and other historically disenfranchised communities. The lawsuit challenges multiple provisions in S.B. 202, including the: • ban on mobile voting

• new narrow identification requirements for requesting and casting an absentee ballot • delayed and compressed time period for requesting absentee ballots

• restrictions on secure drop boxes

• out-of-precinct provisional ballot disqualification

• drastic reduction in early voting in runoff elections

• perhaps most cruelly, ban on “line warming,” where volunteers provide water and snacks to Georgians, disproportionately those of color, who wait in needlessly long lines to cast their vote These provisions, the lawsuit charges, violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, and infringe on Georgians’ rights under the First, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. “This law is driven by blatant racism, represents politics at its very worst, and is clearly illegal,” said Sophia Lakin, deputy director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “We urge the court to act swiftly to strike it down.” “Legislators and Governor Kemp ignored the very obvious lessons from the election in 2020 and runoffs in 2021: expand safe and secure access to the ballot, codify innovations to voting, and provide additional resources to cash-strapped counties,” said Nancy Abudu, deputy legal director for the SPLC. “Instead, to appease conspiracy theorists and amplify deadly lies about past elections, Georgia’s leaders have chosen to pass into law S.B. 202, which makes it more difficult for every Georgian — but particularly Georgians who are members of historically disenfranchised communities — to vote in a safe, secure, and convenient manner and have that vote counted. In so doing, the defendants have violated federal law and the U.S. Constitution, and we turn to the federal courts and U.S. Congress to address the incredible harm S.B. 202 will have on our clients.”  “S.B. 202 is perhaps the most bold and shameful voter suppression legislation enacted in the modern era. Its purpose and target are clear: to create barriers to voting for Black voters who turned out in record numbers for the November 2020 presidential election and the January 2021 special election. The provisions of the new law and the manner in which it was enacted reflect a thorough disregard for the sanctity of protecting the right to vote and a headlong and determined zeal to diminish Black political power in Georgia,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, LDF’s president and director-counsel. “This is a powerful moment for democracy in this country. S.B. 202’s attempt to disenfranchise Black voters in Georgia harkens back to the most shameful days of voter suppression in the decades before the civil rights movement. That this law was passed in Georgia, less than a year after the death of one of the state’s greatest heroes, Representative John Lewis, is shameful. In his name, we will fight to strike down this illegal attempt to undo his legacy. Anything less represents a grave threat to the future of our democracy and inherently undermines the notion of equality for all.”  “Democracy depends upon people expressing their voices freely through their votes,” said WilmerHale partner Debo P. Adegbile. “The Georgia omnibus voting obstruction law is a prime example of modern voter suppression and erodes democracy. A great deal has changed in Georgia but the commitment to brazenly disenfranchise voters clearly has not.” “S.B. 202 attacks the most sacred foundations of our democracy. But in this country, the law secures every American citizen the equal right to make their voice heard at the ballot box, no matter who they are. And we intend to vindicate that right in court,” said Adam Sieff, attorney at Davis Wright Tremaine. The lawsuit, Sixth District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church v. Kemp, was filed late last night in federal court in Atlanta. Complaint: https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/sixth-district-african-methodist-episcopal-church-v-kemp