Alabama Legislative Committee Advances Map That Ignores SCOTUS Ruling, Again Diluting Black Power

UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 7: Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
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Republican Alabama legislators advanced a new congressional map Monday with just one majority-Black district, seemingly spitting in the eye of the Supreme Court which had just sent it back to the drawing board.

“[A]ny remedial plan will need to include two districts in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority in a significant, pro-democracy decision from the right-wing Court that shocked experts.

Alabama lawmakers had been trying to get away with an older iteration of the map that had only one majority-Black district; those challenging it, who won in the Court’s June decision, demanded two, commensurate with the voting population of Black Alabamians. 

Alabama state Rep. Chris England (D) shared the new map and its demographic breakdown on Twitter. One district on the map is 53 percent Black and 43 percent white. The next largest Black population share in a district is only 44 percent, as compared to 52 percent white.

All of the Democrats on the committee opposed the new map. It’ll go to the full legislature this week. 

Alabama may be following in the footsteps of Ohio, where Republican legislators flatly refused to follow the state Supreme Court’s order to redraw their maps. They instead pursued legal appeals, including to the Supreme Court. Some expect that appeal to be rejected in light of another significant redistricting decision out of North Carolina, and for remapping to begin in the state this summer. 

But the Alabama lawmakers are being even bolder in contradicting a direct opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court. Legal challenges will likely follow, if the proposed map stands. There is already a preset federal district court hearing on August 14 to review the map’s compliance with the Voting Rights Act, the law under which Alabama’s previous map was challenged. 

“It is critical that Alabama be fairly and accurately represented in Washington,” Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) said as she called the legislature back for a special session. “Our legislature knows our state better than the federal courts do.”

In ruling against Alabama officials earlier this summer, the Supreme Court sustained one of the last remaining powers of the VRA. It ensured that vote dilution cases — lawsuits where plaintiffs try to prove that states have gerrymandered districts to weaken minority voters’ power, either by “cracking” them into multiple districts or “packing” them all into one — can still be taken to court. 

The Roberts Court is otherwise known for hobbling the VRA, both by effectively nullifying preclearance — the requirement that regions with histories of racial voter discrimination must get changes to their voting laws approved first — and by subsequently making it harder to bring cases challenging discriminatory voting laws. That second case, Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, was decided against a backdrop of a flood of voter restrictions unleashed by freeing mostly southern states from the preclearance requirements. 

The Alabama decision, with Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joining the liberals, stunned nearly all in the voting rights world.  

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