By KIM CHANDLER Associated Press
Federal judges said Tuesday they will draft new congressional lines for Alabama after lawmakers failed to create a second district where black voters form at least approximately a majority, as suggested by the court.
The three-judge panel blocked use of the state’s redrawn congressional map in next year’s election. A special master will be assigned to draw new districts for the state, the judges said. Alabama is expected to appeal the decision to the US Supreme Court.
The Republican-controlled Alabama legislature drew new lines this summer after the US Supreme Court upheld the panel’s finding in June that the map — designed in a state where 27% of residents are black — represented a majority black county exhibited – likely violating the law US Voting Rights Act.
When the three-judge panel struck down Alabama’s map in 2022, it said the state should have two counties where black voters have the opportunity to choose their preferred candidates. Because of the state’s racially polarized elections, that map would have to include a second district where black voters are in the majority, or “something pretty close,” the judges wrote.
In July, Alabama lawmakers passed a new map that retained a single majority-Black district and increased the percentage of black voters in another district, District 2, from about 30% to nearly 40%.
The three judges said they were “deeply disturbed” that Alabama lawmakers enacted a map that ignored their finding that the state should have an additional black-majority district “or an additional district where black voters would otherwise have the have the opportunity to elect a representative of their choice.” Choice.”
“We are not aware of any other case where a state legislature — in the face of a federal court order declaring that its election plan unlawfully diluted minority votes and requiring a plan that provides a voting district with additional capabilities — came up with a plan has responded that the state admits that it does not provide that district. The law calls for the creation of an additional district that will provide black Alabamians, like everyone else, with a fair and reasonable opportunity to elect candidates of their choosing. The 2023 plan clearly fails to do so,” the judges wrote.
In a hearing, all three judges specifically questioned the attorney general about the state’s refusal to create a second black-majority district.
“I hear you say that the state of Alabama made a conscious choice to disobey our instructions to have two black-majority constituencies or one where minority candidates could be selected,” Justice Terry Moorer said.
The state argued the card complied with the Voting Rights Act and the Supreme Court’s decision in the case. The state argued that judges would not require the creation of a second black-majority district if doing so would violate traditional redistributive principles, such as community cohesion.
“District 2 is the closest thing to a second majority-Black district without violating the Supreme Court’s decision,” Alabama Attorney General Edmund LaCour replied to Moorer.
Abha Khanna, an attorney representing a group of plaintiffs in the case, argued during the hearing that Alabama chose “defiance over compliance” and urged the judges to reject the state’s card.
“Alabama has instead chosen to turn its nose up before this court and before the nation’s highest court and its own black citizens,” Khanna said.
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