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 AL.com 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.