Alabama Remains Defiant

Legislature poised to approve new districts that appear to violate a federal court order.

Alabama’s state motto is, “We Dare Defend our Rights” and there are times (really, let’s face it, most of the times) wherein it is clear whose rights we are talking about (hint: it isn’t everyone’s rights). The state legislature is currently in special session to draw new congressional districts as ordered by the federal district court and affirmed by SCOTUS. The specific charge is to draw two Black majority districts or, at least, come close.

And yet, as reports, on the eve of the deadline (today) the legislature’s interpretation seems at odds with a plain English understanding of the order:

Neither Republican plan adds a second majority Black district. Both would leave District 7, which covers much of west Alabama, as the only majority Black district.

Both plans would increase the Black voting age population in District 2, which is represented by Congressman Barry Moore, R-Enterprise.

The district covers southeast Alabama and now has a Black voting age population of 30%. The Pringle plan would increase that to 42%. The Livingston plan would increase it to 38%. Pringle and Livingston said they believe their plans comply with the Voting Rights Act by making District 2 a district where Black voters would have an opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice.

The two plans will need to be reconciled today. No doubt the goal is to get the new maps wrapped up in litigation so as to prevent anything from going into effect for the next electoral cycle.

And look, I understand the politics, which are pretty straightforward. A new majority Black district almost certainly means a Democratic pickup in the House. I am also under no illusions that Democrats don’t know this as well. Nonetheless, from a purely democratic equity/quality of representation argument, it is definitely the case that the current lines over-favor white voters and have the effect of over-representing Republicans. See the piece I wrote for the Pulaski Institution, Alabama: Lack of Competition and Election Skepticism Down South for some details.

NBC has more (Alabama GOP refuses to draw second Black district, despite Supreme Court order) including these quotes, with which I have to, unfortunately, concur.

Marina Jenkins, the executive director of the National Redistricting Foundation — one of the groups that supported some of the plaintiffs in the suit, Allen v. Milligan — slammed the maps in a statement.

“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. It is a continuation of the state’s long, sordid history of disenfranchising Black voters,” she said, promising to challenge the maps in court.

NAACP Legal Defense Fund attorney Deuel Ross, who argued the case before the Supreme Court, said the plaintiffs were disappointed in Alabama’s responses to the court orders.

“This is exactly why the Voting Rights Act was first created — this sort of stubbornness of states,” he said in an interview. “Even when a court says that they’re violating federal law or the Constitution, they continue to fail to do the right thing. It’s troubling, but it’s part of a troubling history that has existed in America and Alabama for a long time.”

As to next steps,

Plaintiffs can submit objections in the coming weeks under the current court order, and the federal judges will consider them at an Aug. 14 hearing. The court can decide to hire an outside expert to redraw the maps if it agrees that the map is another racial gerrymander.

This seems likely. It is unclear to me what the steps after that would in terms of what the state coudl then do to appeal.

FILED UNDER: Democracy, Law and the Courts, Supreme Court, US Politics, , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    No doubt the goal is to get the new maps wrapped up in litigation so as to prevent anything from going into effect for the next electoral cycle.

    I suspect that they can keep this completely effed up until long after we’re all dead and gone.

    I’m sure these fine gentle beings will come up with a way to take this back to the Supremes as many times as it takes to ensure they continue to get the result they want.

  2. MarkedMan says:

    Why am I not surprised that it is Alabama that is finally going to say, “The Supreme Court has no sway over us”?

  3. TJ says:

    I absolutely called this. They’re gonna do every delay tactic as opponents try to get this enjoined, it’ll eventually be petitioned to SCOTUS, and AL is confidend that any emergency injunction will be stayed and they’ll be scheduled for regular merits briefing and they’ll get one more free election out of it, if not more!

  4. gVOR10 says:

    No doubt the goal is to get the new maps wrapped up in litigation so as to prevent anything from going into effect for the next electoral cycle.

    Indeed. Standard GOP tactic they’ve used repeatedly. How many times are the courts going to put up with it? The mills of the courts grind slowly. Sometimes so slowly as to not grind at all.

  5. Joe says:

    The court can decide to hire an outside expert to redraw the maps if it agrees that the map is another racial gerrymander.

    I would recommend that the plaintiffs in the next lawsuit show up with a list of such experts each of whom has a conforming plan in her briefcase so that the Court can issue a preliminary injunction establishing the new plan while the litigation is pending.

  6. EddieInCA says:

    A question for Drs Taylor and Joyner. And I mean this seriously.

    Do the racist citizens of Alabama have a real understanding how racist they actually are and are just okay with it???


    Do they really not see themselves at all as racist?

  7. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @EddieInCA: Third option? See racism as “the natural order of things” and therefore your question is moot?

    ETA: My guess is that most of them probably don’t self-reflect all that much. So they may see neither the racism nor themselves as actors in it.

  8. @EddieInCA: My serious answer is that they do not see themselves as racist. And, as I alluded to in the post, they see this as solely an issue of partisan power politics (as they aren’t wrong that “Black votes” equal, for the most part, “Democratic votes.”

    And since the state is predominantly Republican, this is all seen as protecting the majority’s power (if it is even thought about at all by most people).

  9. Gustopher says:

    Ah, Alabama, the birthplace of the civil rights movement. Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Bloody Sunday, Montgomery Bus Boycott… where would we be now without Alabama?

    They’re just trying to add a new stop on the Civil Rights Trail.

    Boosts tourism, y’know?

  10. EddieInCA says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Thank you for the response. I just got back from a month plus in the South. Memphis, TN, Poplar Bluff, MO, Hot Springs, AR, Ft. Smith AR, Sikeston, MO, and a few other small rural towns. Couple of nights in each place.

    I have to admit I was surprised by how much of those areas are still blatantly racist. What I mean by that is the casual racism and stereotypes that still exist in local advertising and local radio. I was stunned. Probably shouldn’t have been, but was. Also, the venn diagram between Trump signs and confederate flags has a very, very, very large overlap.

  11. Joe says:

    Alabama, you’ve got the rest of the union to help you along, what’s going wrong?

  12. @EddieInCA:

    Also, the venn diagram between Trump signs and confederate flags has a very, very, very large overlap.

    It is almost a closed circle. I have seen it in Alabama, Georgia, TN, NC, and SC.

  13. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @EddieInCA: Welcome to the state of Misery. It just doesn’t end.

  14. Erik says:

    Not that I think it is remotely possible that this would actually happen, but could congress refuse to seat delegates from the state on the grounds that they were not the product of a legal election? Force the state to either draw legal districts or forfeit representation?

  15. Paine says:

    I long for the day when we don’t have to go through this ridiculous kabuki theater of fiddling with districts to ensure some sort of equitable outcome and simply go to a proportional system. So, so much easier.

  16. Jax says:

    @Paine: I’d really like Election Day to be a Holiday and a paid day off. Every legal voter required to vote. Free bus rides to polling stations. Republicans depend on voter apathy.

  17. Tony W says:

    @Jax: Who works on Holidays? The poor. You can bet that Target, and WalMart, and McDonalds will all be open that day, even if it is a holiday.

    Capitalist power will not just roll over because election day is a “holiday”.