Alabama Republicans Refuse to Draw a Second Black Congressional District in Defiance of Supreme Court
Jane C. Timm, NBC, July 21, 2023
The GOP-controlled Legislature had called a special session to redraw an earlier map after the Supreme Court reaffirmed a federal court order to include two districts where Black voters make up voting-age majorities, “or something quite close to it.” But on Friday, state Republicans approved a new map with just one majority-Black seat and a second district that is approximately 40% Black.
The map was completed Friday afternoon — hours before the court-ordered deadline for the Legislature to draw up new boundaries — as a compromise between the House and Senate versions.
Democrats slammed the map and its drafters, arguing that legislators ignored a court order and that the map continued the racist history of voter suppression.
“There was never any intent in this building to comply with their court order,” said state Rep. Chris England, a Democrat from Tuscaloosa. “There was never any intent in this building to comply with the Voting Rights Act.”
England and other Democrats argued the map was designed to bring another challenge to the Voting Rights Act.
“I’m ashamed of what we did here this week,” said state Rep. Juandalynn Givan, a Democrat from Birmingham. “We’ve chosen to outright, blatantly disobey the law and to further attempt and vote to bury the Voting Rights Act.”
The district lines are being closely watched by many in Washington, where redistricting battles playing out in the courts in Alabama, New York, North Carolina, Georgia, Texas and other states could decide control of Congress.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., and much of the rest of Alabama’s congressional delegation had reached out to Republican legislators, according to Republican state House Speaker Nathan Ledbetter.
McCarthy reached out to plan sponsors and is concerned about maintaining his House majority, Ledbetter said, while Tuberville called Thursday morning and said he was surprised the Supreme Court had ruled against the state, given the court’s conservative tilt.
Republicans have insisted the maps would give Black voters an opportunity to elect the representatives of their choice as required by the courts, but Democrats, voting rights experts and the groups that sued the original maps disagree.
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.