Federal judges on Monday struck down a congressional map drawn by Alabama’s GOP-led Legislature, finding the Republican proposal would ensure “Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice."
It’s the second time this year a federal court has blocked GOP-drawn maps from going into effect. Earlier this month, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled district maps drawn by Republicans were racially gerrymandered.
Republicans controlling Alabama’s Legislature drew maps that would have created just one majority-Black district out of the state's seven congressional districts. In its ruling Monday, the three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama gave the Legislature until Feb. 11 to come up with a new map that includes “two districts in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it.” Notably, Black people account for roughly one-quarter of the population in Alabama.
“We find that the plaintiffs will suffer an irreparable harm if they must vote in the 2022 congressional elections based on a redistricting plan that violates federal law,” the judges wrote. If the Legislature is unable (or unwilling) to redraw the maps, the judges said they will hire “an eminently qualified expert to draw on an expedited basis a map that complies with federal law for use in Alabama’s 2022 congressional elections.”
Alabama Republicans will almost certainly appeal the ruling.
In a statement, NAACP Legal Defense Fund senior counsel Deuel Ross, whose organization represented the plaintiffs in the case, said they are “deeply gratified that the unanimous court found that Black voters deserve full representation now.”
“We look forward to working with the Legislature to ensure that Black voters are fairly represented in any remedial map,” he added.
The Alabama Republicans’ attempted power grab fits into a broader push by Republicans across the country to draw maps that could solidify their power and insulate themselves from voter backlash for years to come. North Carolina’s GOP-drawn maps are also facing lawsuits that allege racist gerrymandering, and several other states are likely to see their maps challenged in court, as well.
The GOP’s plan to expand its power by any means has run roughshod over Democratic opposition in many states. Monday's ruling in Alabama shows courts aren’t inclined to blindly approve those attempts when they’re blatantly discriminatory.
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