WASHINGTON (CN) — The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected Alabama’s attempt to circumvent the redraw of its congressional maps to include a second Black majority district.
The order from the court contained no explanation for the justices' ruling. There were no public dissents to the ruling.
Black Alabamians make up 27% of the state’s voting-age population but only represent the majority in one of seven of the state’s congressional districts. Alabama lawmakers have been fighting against adding a second majority-Black district for the better part of three years.
Alabama’s 2021 congressional maps split the Black Belt, breaking Montgomery into two districts for the first time. Voting rights groups challenged the maps under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits voting practices that discriminate based on race.
A three-judge panel agreed with the voting rights groups and shot down Alabama’s 2021 map. However, before a redraw could move forward, the Supreme Court jumped into the fight. A slim majority on the high court agreed to uphold the panel’s assessment this June, avoiding the destruction of one of the last vestiges of the Voting Rights Act.
After facing defeat, Alabama lawmakers proposed a new map, but it still lacked a second majority Black district. Although a district doesn’t have to be majority-minority to satisfy the Voting Rights Act, many legal experts called out the legislature for appearing to violate the justices’ ruling.
Earlier this month, a three-judge panel again found that the legislature’s proposed map did not give enough representation to Black Alabamians. The panel found that the new maps violated federal law, a move that deeply troubled the judges.
“We do not take lightly federal intrusion into a process ordinarily reserved for the state Legislature,” the panel wrote. “But we have now said twice that this Voting Rights Act case is not close. And we are deeply troubled that the state enacted a map that the state readily admits does not provide the remedy we said federal law requires.”
The panel of the Northern District of Alabama refused to pause its ruling while the state appealed. Alabama then turned to the Supreme Court, asking the justices to halt the court-mandated redraw.
Alabama told the justices lawmakers unified the Black Belt without splitting up the Gulf Coast and Wiregrass regions.
“It was not good enough to jettison past district lines, eliminate county splits in the Black Belt, minimize county splits elsewhere, improve compactness, and keep together multiple communities of interest,” Edmund LaCour Jr., the state’s solicitor general, wrote in the application. “Just the opposite — it would only have been good enough if Alabama drew more sprawling districts, splintered other communities of interest, and spliced counties to attain what the court believed was the ‘required remedy’ of a second majority-black district.”
The 2023 maps only increase the Black voting age population in District 2 to 39.93% — short of a true majority. Lawmakers also decreased the Black voting age population in District 7.
Voters who brought the challenge to Alabama's map saw Tuesday's order as a win in their long fight for additional representation in the state.
“It has been a long and frustrating battle holding the Alabama legislature accountable, but today it is a rewarding one,” voters challenging Alabama’s maps said in a statement from the Legal Defense Fund.
The voters characterized the state’s actions as shameful and emphasized the importance of providing Black Alabamians with more representation.
“This additional representation in Congress will undoubtedly change lives, especially for the hundreds of thousands of Alabamians residing in the Black Belt who suffer from lack of healthcare access, job opportunities, and crumbling infrastructure,” the voters said. “We look forward to a new era in our state’s history, in which power is shared and Black voices are heard.”
Alabama's attorney general did not respond to a request for comment on the court's order.Follow @KelseyReichmann
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