January 25, 2022

With the midterm elections just months away, a trio of federal judges late Monday struck down Alabama's newly drawn congressional districts on the grounds that they discriminated against Black voters, forcing state lawmakers to craft new maps.

In its unanimous ruling, the three-judge panel ordered that "any remedial plan" from the Republican-controlled Alabama Legislature must "include two districts in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it."

The map that the judges deemed discriminatory contained just one majority-Black district in a state where Black people make up roughly 27% of the population.

"Under the totality of the circumstances, including the factors that the Supreme Court has instructed us to consider, Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress," the judges wrote.

Alabama's Republican attorney general swiftly vowed to appeal the ruling, a move that could ultimately put the case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Evan Milligan, one of the plaintiffs in the case, applauded the judges' decision, arguing in a statement Monday that "the congressional map our legislature enacted fails Alabama's voters of color."

"We deserve to be heard in our electoral process, rather than have our votes diluted using a map that purposefully cracks and packs Black communities," said Milligan. "Today, the court recognized this harm and has ordered our elected officials to do better. My co-plaintiffs and I hope that more Alabamians will embrace the important role we play in holding our officials accountable, until all of Alabama's voters are fairly represented."

Alabama's racially gerrymandered map was just the latest Republican-led redistricting scheme to be struck down in the courts as voting rights groups and activists rush to challenge the GOP's nationwide map-rigging spree—with no help from Democratic lawmakers at the federal level.

Earlier this month, the Ohio Supreme Court invalidated the state's GOP-drawn congressional districts. Civil rights organizations are also challenging gerrymandered maps in South Carolina, Georgia, Texas, and elsewhere throughout the country.

"We've said since the beginning that we would refuse to let unconstitutional maps be used without a fight, so we are pleased that the court recognized the importance of urgently remedying the congressional district maps ahead of November's election," Tish Gotell Faulks, legal director for the ACLU of Alabama, said late Monday. "It's past time for Alabama to move beyond its sordid history of racial discrimination at the polls, and to listen to and be responsive to the needs and concerns of voters of color."

The redistricting cycle that began in 2021 was the first since the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which gutted the section of the Voting Rights Act that required states and localities with a history of racial discrimination to obtain "preclearance" from the Justice Department or a court before implementing new maps.

The 2013 ruling helped unleash a wave of Republican-led voter suppression that continues in the present, threatening to disenfranchise millions of voters across the nation.

"In five of the six redistricting cycles since 1960, Alabama's legislative districts—congressional, state, or both—have violated the rights of voters under the U.S. Constitution or the Voting Rights Act. Enough is enough," the ACLU said Monday. "Lawmakers cannot manipulate district lines to undermine the political power of Black voters—in Alabama or anywhere. We won't stop fighting for fair maps."

Republished from Common Dreams (Jake Johnson, staff writer) under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

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