Federal Court Plans to Reconfigure Alabama’s Congressional Districts to Enhance Black Voter Influence

by Gabriel Martinez
1 comment
Alabama Congressional Redistricting

A U.S. Federal Judge announced on Tuesday that the judiciary will soon finalize new electoral districts for Alabama with the specific aim of amplifying the electoral power of Black citizens within the state. U.S. Circuit Judge Stanley Marcus indicated that the court’s decision would be released in the near future. He noted the significance of the looming electoral timeline, as all seven of Alabama’s U.S. House of Representatives seats will be contested in the next year’s elections, adding that a verdict could be forthcoming within the week.

The judicial panel is intervening to define new district lines after determining that the Republican-dominated Alabama Legislature did not correct violations of the Voting Rights Act when redrawing district boundaries earlier this summer. The court condemned the state’s new plan, which featured just one majority-Black district in a state where 27% of the population is Black, stating it unlawfully undermined the political clout of Black residents.

Comprising two judges nominated by former President Donald Trump, the panel expressed last month its deep concern over the Alabama Legislature’s failure to heed their instructions to formulate a second majority-Black district, or something approximating it. The judicial body on Tuesday examined three alternative redistricting proposals submitted by a court-appointed special master.

Deuel Ross, the Deputy Director of Litigation for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, described the occasion as a monumental one for both the state of Alabama and its Black voters. Ross expressed optimism that the revised district boundaries could pave the way for Alabama to send a second Black individual to Congress.

In the proposed plans, the modifications to Congressional District 2 would result in a Black voting-age populace ranging from 48.5% to 50.1%. For comparison, the district designed by the state’s GOP lawmakers contained a Black voting-age population of 39.9%, which, according to a plaintiffs’ analysis, would predominantly continue to elect white Republicans. Abha Khanna, another lawyer representing Black voters, confirmed to the panel that two of the three alternative plans would adequately rectify the identified Voting Rights Act violation.

Plaintiffs Khadidah Stone and Evan Milligan expressed hope that the newly-drafted map could usher in a congressional delegation more representative of Alabama’s diverse population.

The new electoral boundaries will be applicable for the 2024 elections, subsequent to a prolonged legal battle and a Supreme Court ruling. Initially, the three-judge panel had sought to introduce the new districts by the 2022 elections, but this was postponed by the U.S. Supreme Court during the state’s appeal process. Ultimately, the Court, in a 5-4 decision, sided against the state and upheld the three-judge panel’s findings. Alabama’s subsequent attempt to redraw the lines was deemed inadequate by the same panel, prompting judicial oversight for the new district configurations.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall voiced strong objections to all three of the court’s proposals, arguing that the judicial panel was prioritizing racial quotas above traditional redistricting criteria.

The judges had previously expressed their deep reservations about the state legislature’s conduct, and attorney Abha Khanna argued that Alabama’s obstinate response should not be condoned, describing it as a “textbook example of how not to rectify” a Voting Rights Act violation.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Alabama congressional districts

What is the primary aim of redrawing Alabama’s congressional districts?

The primary aim is to give Black voters in Alabama a greater opportunity to influence election outcomes. The court plans to finalize new electoral districts that rectify existing violations of the Voting Rights Act, specifically addressing the dilution of the political power of Black residents in the state.

Who is overseeing the redrawing of Alabama’s congressional districts?

A three-judge federal panel, led by U.S. Circuit Judge Stanley Marcus, is overseeing the process. The panel is intervening after determining that the Alabama Legislature failed to correct violations of the Voting Rights Act when they redrew district lines.

What was the problem with the previous district lines in Alabama?

The previous lines were criticized for diluting the political power of Black voters. Despite Black residents making up 27% of Alabama’s population, only one of the state’s seven congressional districts was majority-Black.

What is the timeline for implementing the new congressional districts?

The new district lines are planned to be used in the 2024 elections. A decision on the redrawing could be issued as early as this week, given the time constraints posed by upcoming elections.

How many alternative redistricting proposals are under consideration?

The judicial panel is currently considering three alternative redistricting proposals. These were presented by a court-appointed special master and aim to shift the boundaries in a way that better represents Black voting-age populations.

What are the objections raised by the Alabama Attorney General’s office?

The Alabama Attorney General’s office has objected to all three of the court’s redistricting proposals. They argue that the judicial panel is prioritizing racial quotas over traditional redistricting principles.

What has been the reaction from organizations like the NAACP Legal Defense Fund?

Deuel Ross, the Deputy Director of Litigation for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, described the judicial intervention as a “historic moment” for Alabama and its Black voters. He expressed optimism that the revised district boundaries could enable Alabama to elect a second Black representative to Congress.

Has the U.S. Supreme Court been involved in this case?

Yes, the U.S. Supreme Court had initially put the three-judge panel’s order to redraw the lines on hold as the state appealed. However, the Supreme Court later ruled 5-4 against the state and upheld the panel’s findings, allowing the redrawing process to proceed.

What impact is expected on the electoral landscape in Alabama?

The redrawing is expected to provide an opportunity for more equitable representation, possibly leading to the election of a second Black congressional representative from Alabama. It aims to better reflect the state’s demographic diversity in its congressional delegation.

What do the plaintiffs hope to achieve with the new district lines?

The plaintiffs, represented by lawyers from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund among others, hope that the new district lines will finally provide the representation that Black voters in Alabama are entitled to, according to the Voting Rights Act.

More about Alabama congressional districts

  • Voting Rights Act Overview
  • Alabama Legislature
  • U.S. Circuit Judge Stanley Marcus Profile
  • NAACP Legal Defense Fund
  • U.S. Supreme Court Rulings on Redistricting
  • Federal Court System in the United States
  • Alabama Demographics and Political Landscape
  • Previous Congressional Districts in Alabama
  • Traditional Principles of Redistricting

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1 comment

James D. October 4, 2023 - 11:53 am

Wow, finally some change is coming to Alabama’s voting districts. Been long overdue if you ask me.


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