Discover more from Law Dork
Alabama gets a new, court-ordered congressional map; Wes Allen backs down
For the first time, Alabama will have a congressional map that includes two districts where Black voters will have “an opportunity to elect a representative of their choice.”
Alabama has a new congressional map, ordered on Thursday by the three-judge district court that has been hearing the two-year-old Voting Rights Act challenges there. The state, for the first time, will have a congressional map that includes two districts where Black voters will have “an opportunity to elect a representative of their choice.”
The winding case had found its way to the Supreme Court repeatedly — on the shadow docket in 2022 when the justices allowed a challenged map to be used in the 2022 elections, in June 2023’s high court ruling reaffirming the test for considering vote dilution claims under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and agreeing with the district court that the 2022 map was illegal under that test, and on the shadow docket again in September rejecting Alabama’s attempt to slow the process again after it adopted a new map in 2023 that still violated the law.
All of which led to Thursday, and the district court’s order that the state use a new court-selected map to conduct its 2024 congressional elections.
The three-judge court made clear the remarkable intransigence from the state’s Republican lawmakers and statewide officials that led to Thursday’s order.
“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 court wrote.
In response, the court had ordered that a special master in the case develop proposed maps. In Thursday’s order, which followed a hearing earlier this week, the court discussed the three plans proposed by the Special Master and ultimately selected “Remedial Plan 3.”
The court noted that the state most strongly objected to Remedial Plan 1 offered by the special master and that “a consensus among the Plaintiffs developed around Remedial Plan 3 recommended by the Special Master“ at the Oct. 3 hearing.
Among the important notes regarding that plan, the court noted on Thursday, “Remedial Plan 3 preserves 93.3% of the City of Birmingham in a single district and 90.4% of the City of Mobile in a single district,” adding, “Neither of the Special Master’s other plans preserve more than 72% of the City of Mobile in a single district. And neither of the Special Master’s other plans preserve more than 89.6% of the City of Birmingham in a single district.”
According to the special master’s earlier report and recommendations, the new opportunity district — District 2 — will have a Black voting-age population of 48.7%.
Alabama had objected to all of the proposed plans as “unconstitutional racial gerrymanders that harm Alabama voters by subjecting them to racial classifications,” but, in a statement on posted on Twitter/X on Thursday afternoon, Alabama Secretary of State backed down.
This is, technically, accurate, as the injunction issued against the 2023 map in September was a preliminary one and will be followed by full consideration, the posture of this case means that virtually everything has already been discussed and there is nothing to suggest the result from the district court would change in the future. It was, essentially, a face-saving claim from an official who has fought for two years to keep this day from coming.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall had already dropped his appeals of the preliminary injunction after the Supreme Court’s stay denial, signaling an acknowledgement that the state would not be challenging the map selected by the district court for 2024’s use.
The bottom line: Alabama will have a new, Voting Rights Act-compliant map in use for the 2024 elections, with two districts in which Black voters will have the opportunity to elect representatives of their choosing.
Law Dork with Chris Geidner brings you independent, reader-supported legal and political journalism that seeks to hold government and other public officials accountable. Support this reporting by becoming a paid or free subscriber today.