MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Federal judges that ordered Alabama to attract new congressional traces mentioned the state ought to have a second district the place Black voters are the bulk “or something quite close to it” and have a chance to elect a consultant of their alternative.
What precisely that map ought to seem like is in dispute as lawmakers rush to attract new traces.
Alabama lawmakers convene in particular session Monday tasked by the court docket with adopting a brand new map by the tip of the week. The directive comes after a shock U.S. Supreme Courtroom ruling that affirmed the decrease court docket’s ruling that Alabama’s present congressional map — with a single Black district — probably violated the Voting Rights Act.
The group of voters who sued the state and received earlier than the Supreme Courtroom have proposed the creation of a second district the place Black residents are 50.5% of the inhabitants. However Alabama Republicans, who maintain a lopsided majority within the Alabama Legislature and can management the redistricting course of, haven’t ceded they need to create a second majority-Black district and have pointed to proposals with decrease percentages of Black voters. The GOP majority will launch their proposed map on Monday.
“Even among the plaintiffs suing the state, the meaning of an equal opportunity to elect candidates of choice is in dispute,” Home Speaker Professional Tempore Chris Pringle, who serves as co-chairman of the state redistricting committee, mentioned throughout a public listening to Thursday.
The U.S. Supreme Courtroom final month affirmed a lower-court ruling discovering Alabama probably violated the Voting Rights Act with a congressional map that had just one majority Black district out of seven in a state the place a couple of in 4 residents is Black. The three-judge panel gave Alabama till Friday to undertake a brand new map and submit it for evaluate.
“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,” the three-judge panel wrote in its 2022 ruling, including that it might want to embrace two districts through which “Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it.”
The Supreme Court decision was cheered by voting rights groups who said it would give Black voters a greater voice in the Deep South state.
“The eyes of the nation are looking at you. I know it’s hard. I know you have people that you answer to,” Evan Milligan, the lead plaintiff in the case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court, told lawmakers. “But if you can cut out the noise, look within, you can look to history. You can make a mark in history that will that will set a standard for this country.”
Milligan, a longtime resident of Montgomery, mentioned he’s six generations faraway from slavery. “My son and daughter are the seventh generation. When I look at them, I want to commit to them inheriting an Alabama that allows them an opportunity to lead, to dream and to make contributions to the community, the same that you want for your children and your grandchildren,” Milligan said.
The Supreme Court decision sets up Alabama’s first significant revamp of its congressional districts since 1992, when Alabama was ordered by the courts to create its first majority-Black district. That led to the state electing its first Black member of Congress since Reconstruction. The district has been represented by a Black Democrat ever since.
Partisan politics underlies the looming redistricting fight. Republicans who dominate elective office in Alabama have been resistant to creating a second district with a Democratic-leaning Black majority, or close to one, that could send another Democrat to Congress. Democrats cheered the possibility of gaining a seat or at least a swing district in the GOP-dominated state.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, who represents the state in the redistricting lawsuit, wrote in a letter to the committee that plaintiffs had initially argued for a “fair chance” to compete but now want more.
“Now they demand a plan that gives not only a ‘truthful probability’ to compete, however as a substitute a assure of Democratic victories in a minimum of two districts,” Marshall wrote. Marshall said the plaintiffs’ proposed map divides voters based on “stereotypes about how voters of certain races will vote.”
Joe Reed, chairman of the Alabama Democratic Conference — the state’s oldest Black political organization — urged lawmakers to compromise with plaintiffs on a plan. He said state lawmakers can either draw a plan that the court will approve or the court will draw it for them.
“We know there will be two majority Black districts,” Reed mentioned.
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