HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — A federal three-judge panel ruled Tuesday that the Alabama congressional map redrawn by the legislature in July does not remedy Voting Rights Act problems identified by two courts.
The Alabama Legislature’s map did not create two Black voting-age population congressional districts or two Black near-majority districts. In arguments before the court Alabama said it could not engage in racial gerrymandering.
Tuesday’s order moves the drawing of the map away from the legislature.
The court acknowledged federal court review of redistricting can be intrusive, but it said, “However, ‘when those with legislative responsibilities do not respond, or the imminence of a state election makes it impractical for them to do so, it becomes the unwelcome obligation of the federal court to devise and impose a reapportionment plan pending later legislative action.’”
The order directs a court-appointed special master to oversee the drawing of three proposed maps. Those maps are to be filed by Sept. 25.
The court also ordered, “Each map shall remediate the essential problem found in the 2023 Plan – the unlawful dilution of the Black vote in Alabama’s congressional redistricting regime. To that end, each proposed map shall “include either an additional majority-Black congressional district, or an additional district in which Black voters otherwise have an opportunity to elect a representative of their choice.”
The panel had issued a preliminary injunction in January 2022, finding that Alabama’s previous map likely violated the Voting Rights Act. The court said Alabama’s Black population is large to constitute a voting-age majority in a second congressional district, that such a district could be reasonably configured, that voting in the challenged districts is “intensely racially polarized” and under the totality of the circumstances Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress.