Court Strikes Down Alabama District Map On Racial Grounds

The issue of redrawing congressional district lines has come under increasing scrutiny from the left in recent years over concerns that Republican leaders would use the maps to limit the influence of minority voters.

While the issue of gerrymandering — or establishing congressional boundaries with the specific purpose of increasing one party’s power — has been the subject of criticism throughout American history, a case involving Alabama’s new map focused primarily on the racial component.

The issue arose from concerns that the map only contained one congressional district with a majority Black population, compared to six populated with a White majority. Critics said that, given the fact that Black residents make up more than one-fourth of the state’s population, the map did not reflect an equitable distribution of the vote.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling that the boundaries likely constituted a violation of federal law. More recently, another court decision effectively struck down the boundaries as currently drawn.

The ruling found that Alabama should have created a second majority-Black district “or something quite close,” which is a step state lawmakers have thus far refused to consider.

“We are not aware of any other case in which a state legislature — faced with a federal court order declaring that its electoral plan unlawfully dilutes minority votes and requiring a plan that provides an additional opportunity district — responded with a plan that the state concedes does not provide that district,” the ruling declared.

In making the case for the current map, Alabama Solicitor General Edmund LaCour insisted that it complied with both the Voting Rights Act and the earlier Supreme Court decision.

In fact, he noted that justices ruled that establishing another district where Black voters make up a majority would not be required if it would mean that the existing policies surrounding the redistricting process would be uprooted in the process.

He pointed to a new district where the share of Black residents increased from roughly 30% to nearly 40%, adding: “District 2 is as close as you are going to get to a second majority-Black district without violating the Supreme Court’s decision.”

Nevertheless, the three-judge panel unanimously ruled against state authorities, determining that a special master should be appointed to redraw the district map. The case is now expected to be appealed once again to the Supreme Court.