Alabama began its appeal Tuesday (Jan. 25) of a federal court ruling that rejected the state GOP-dominated legislature’s congressional district map for the November 2022 elections, the Associated Press reports. The ruling is seen as a win for those fighting for voting rights, but the state is vowing to fight back.
On Monday (Jan. 24), a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama ruled that legislators should have drawn districts in a way that gave minorities a majority in two of the state’s seven congressional districts. They said it likely violated the Voting Rights Act by denying Black voters a fair chance to elect a representative of their choice.
According to AL.com, Blacks comprise 27 percent of the state’s population, but they only constitute a majority in one of the state’s seven congressional districts, which adds up to just 14 percent of the districts.
Monday’s ruling was a victory for Democrats and voting rights advocates who have argued that Alabama’s congressional map packs too many Black voters into a single district. It has the effect of diminishing Black voting power.
"The appropriate remedy is a congressional redistricting plan that includes 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," Reuters quoted the ruling.
The U.S. Constitution requires states to redraw their congressional district lines every 10 years after census results. Often, the party in control of state legislatures manipulates the process to win political advantage.
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Senior Counsel Deuel Ross said, “Black people drove a disproportionate share of Alabama’s population growth. Throughout last year, Black Alabamians publicly called on the Legislature to recognize this reality and sought equal representation in Congress.”
“The state ignored these demands, but we 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.”
The AP reported that Alabama’s attorney general filed a notice of appeal. It argues that other courts had approved similar maps for decades. The notice also claims that the ruling, which comes months before the May primaries, “will cause irreparable harm to Alabama, its aspiring congressional representatives, and the voters they seek to represent.” Consequently, the state’s top lawyer seeks to stay the ruling during the appeals process.