- Alabama lawmakers are ignoring the Supreme Court’s order to create a second Black-majority district in the state.
- Instead, the redistricting committee proposed a map that raises the number of Black voters in the second district, but doesn’t give them the majority.
- The high court had said the existing map violated the Voting Rights Act by diluting Black voters’ power.
Alabama is ignoring a Supreme Court ruling that demanded the state redraw its district maps to include a second Black-majority district in the state, The Hill reported.
In a 5-4 June decision, the Supreme Court sided with a group of voters that claimed the state’s current district map violates the Voting Rights Act because it includes just one Black-majority district out of seven — in a state that has a population of Black voters of 27%.
The ruling came as a surprise as Chief Justice John Roberts and conservative Brett Kavanaugh sided with the court’s three liberal justices.
But, according to The Hill, the team of Republicans tasked with redrawing Alabama’s district map aren’t listening to the Supreme Court’s ruling.
State lawmakers on Monday proposed their new version of the districting map which increased the number of Black voters in the second district from 30% to nearly 42.5%, The Hill reported.
According to the June ruling, though, that second district would have to include more than 50% of Black voters, or at least be able to “perform” for Black voters, giving a candidate supported by Black voters in the state a real chance to win, Mark Gaber, senior director of redistricting at Campaign Legal Center, explained to Insider.
In this case, it’s not about the percentage of Black voters in the district, Gaber said. It’s more about the fact that this proposed district is in rural Alabama, where voting is hyper-polarized, so Black voters would need a majority to ever have a chance to elect a candidate they support.
In contrast, if a second district were drawn near a big city, like Birmingham — where voting is still polarized but not as much — the district might not need to account for more than 50% of Black voters because there is more of an opportunity there, Gaber said.
“The key thing is like functionally, looking to see election results and whether or not in the district that’s drawn the past candidates favored by Black voters actually prevailed in the district as a function,” Gaber said.
He continued: “As a reality in Alabama, for the most part, the voting is so racially polarized that the white voters have such low support for candidates supported by Black voters that as a functional matter, it does need to be, as the district court said, either a majority or close to it.”
The proposal was approved by the Permanent Legislative Committee in a 14-6 vote across party lines, The Hill reported. Gaber said the proposed map is “violating section two of the Voting Rights Act.”
Alabama’s Republican House Speaker Pro Tempore Chris Pringle — who also serves as the co-chairman of Alabama’s redistricting committee — stood by this committee’s proposal when it was introduced in a special session Monday, saying it gave Black voters a bigger voice and that was enough.
“We took in consideration what the court asked us to do,” Pringle said, according to Politico.
The National Redistricting Foundation, a Democratic-Party-aligned nonprofit that was among those opposing the Alabama maps, vowed to fight the new maps if they are approved.
“Alabama Republicans are intentionally drawing political retention maps at the expense of Black Alabamians—in defiance of the Supreme Court and the Alabama district court,” Executive Director Marina Jenkins said in a statement. “It is a continuation of the state’s long, sordid history of disenfranchising Black voters.”
Gaber said there is a district court hearing over the proposed map later this week. He expects the state will lose because it didn’t uphold what SCOTUS asked of it and the map will then be redrawn by court-appointed special masters.
He said that the state will have the opportunity to appeal the district court to the Supreme Court, “but it seems pretty clear to me that they should lose that,” Gaber said.
“This district will not perform, it doesn’t remedy the violation, frankly,” Gaber told Insider. “To me this is evidence of purposeful discrimination at this point given what they’ve been told by the US Supreme Court.”