Supreme Court refuses Alabama Republicans’ request to stop second Black voting district

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(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday again rejected Alabama’s push not to have to add a second Black district to their election map, with the justices refusing a request to halt a lower court order that outside experts will draw new districts for the 2024 elections.

The brief order did not note any dissents from the court. The state, led by Republicans, had sought an emergency stay.

In September, a three-judge federal panel found that that a GOP-drafted plan likely did not comply with the Voting Rights Act as it did not create a second district in which Black voters would likely be able to elect their preferred candidate.

The federal ruling that originally struck down Alabama’s map in 2022 ordered the Legislature to draw “two districts in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it.”

About 27% of Alabama residents are Black, according to census data. Only one of its seven districts is represented by a Black lawmaker.

The state Legislature had passed their latest congressional map in late July, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled a month earlier that the previous map violated the civil rights law.

Defenders of the now-rejected map argued they had achieved “something quite close,” as the lower federal court ordered. Under that plan, Black voters comprised 39.93% of Alabama’s 2nd District and 50.65% of the 7th District.

In their sharply worded opinion on Sept. 5, the federal panel disagreed.

“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,” U.S. Circuit Judge Stanley Marcus, U.S. District Judge Anna Manasco and U.S. District Judge Terry Moorer wrote.

There are political implications for the redistricting, as Democrats believe an additional minority district will be favorable to them, given that Black voters in Alabama favor Democrats.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, a Republican, said in a statement after the Supreme Court ruling was handed down on Tuesday that the state will “now be encumbered with a racially gerrymandered, court-drawn map for the 2024 election cycle” and called the maps with two majority-Black districts an “absurd disfigurement.”

“It is now clear that none of the maps proposed by Republican supermajorities had any chance of success. Treating voters as individuals would not do. Instead, our elected representatives and our voters must apparently be reduced to skin color alone. No Alabamian—black, white, Republican, or Democrat—can look at the court-drawn maps that will soon be imposed on us and see anything other than the prioritization of race above all else. Our communities, local economies, and basic geography will be cast aside in the radical pursuit of racial quotas. There simply is no other explanation for the absurd disfigurement,” he said.

Marshall said that his office would continue their fight to defend the 2023 map.

“We will comply with the district court’s preliminary injunction order, while building our case for the 2023 map, which has yet to receive a full hearing. We are confident that the Voting Rights Act does not require, and the Constitution does not allow, ‘separate but equal’ congressional districts,” he concluded.

A statement released by the American Civil Liberties Union, the plaintiffs in the suit against the original maps, said, in part: “This additional representation in Congress will undoubtedly change lives, especially for the hundreds of thousands of Alabamians residing in the Black Belt who suffer from lack of healthcare access, job opportunities, and crumbling infrastructure. We look forward to a new era in our state’s history, in which power is shared and Black voices are heard.”

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