A panel of three federal judges rejected the new Alabama district map drawn by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature on Monday in two lawsuits against Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R) alleging that the district lines had been racially gerrymandered.
The panel found that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed in arguing that the current map, which allows only one district to have a majority of Black voters, violates the ban on racist voter discrimination in the Voting Rights Act.
Noting that Black Americans make up 27 percent of Alabama’s population and “have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress,” the judges argued that there were enough Black voters in the state for them to make up a majority in a second congressional district.
The court also cited “ample evidence” of “intensely racially polarized voting” in the challenged districts.
Therefore, the Republican-controlled state legislature was given 14 days to draw a new map that has “two districts in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it,” the court ordered.
If lawmakers fail to do so, the court will appoint an expert to draw the new lines, according to the order.
The federal judges also pushed the Jan. 28 deadline for candidates to qualify to be on the Alabama ballot to Feb. 11.
The court’s map decision will likely be appealed. If it prevails, Democrats stand to gain a second seat in Alabama, which has seven congressional seats in total. All but one are held by a Republican white man, save Alabama’s Seventh Congressional District, which is currently represented by Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL), a Black congresswoman.
This is the second time a state’s newly drawn 2020 district map has been quashed by the courts due to Republican gerrymandering: The Ohio Supreme Court rejected the map from the state’s GOP-dominated redistricting commission less than two weeks ago and ordered it to draw a new one.
Read the decision below: