A three-judge panel on the U.S. District Court of Northern Alabama has struck down that state’s latest map of Congressional districts for failing to comply with the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
In an order released Tuesday, the judges stated that they are “deeply troubled that the State enacted a map that the State readily admits does not provide the remedy we said federal law requires.”
In a 5-4 ruling in June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a previous version of Alabama’s Congressional map, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, both conservatives, joined the Court’s three liberal Justices in the majority.
Even though more than one-fourth of the state’s population is Black, the way the district lines were drawn, minority voters would only have a realistic chance of electing the candidate of their choice in one of Alabama’s seven Congressional districts. The Supreme Court had sided with the district court’s earlier ruling that said Alabama should have created two compact Congressional districts with a majority or close to a majority of Black voters, not one.
The map that the state drew up after the Supreme Court’s ruling also did not include the two required majority-Black voter Congressional districts.
“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,” the U.S. District Judges wrote in their Tuesday ruling.
The judges added, “The law requires the creation of an additional district that affords Black Alabamians, like everyone else, a fair and reasonable opportunity to elect candidates of their choice. The 2023 Plan plainly fails to do so.”
As a result, the judges have assigned court-appointed experts to draw three different proposed maps, all of which will include two districts where Black voters have a realistic opportunity to elect their preferred candidates. The proposed maps must be submitted to the court by September 25, and a hearing on arguments for and against the proposals will take place October 3.
Alabama is facing a looming deadline ahead of next year’s elections. The state’s Secretary of State Wes Allen (R) has told the judges that finalizing a redistricting plan by October 1 “would provide enough time to reassign voters, print and distribute ballots, and otherwise conduct the forthcoming 2024 primary elections based on the new map.”
Meanwhile, a court trial about the map Alabama wants to use for its 2026 elections is still pending.