By KIM CHANDLER Associated Press
A three-judge panel on Monday refused to suspend an order drawing new congressional districts in Alabama while the state begins another round of appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The justices rejected Alabama’s request to stay the ruling because the state diluted the voting power of black residents and ordered a special commissioner to draw new boundaries.
Alabama is expected to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court to put the order on hold.
The three justices said last week they would step in and oversee the setting of new congressional lines after Alabama lawmakers refused to create a second district where black voters would be at least close to a majority, as suggested by the court. The justices ordered a court-appointed special master to submit three proposed maps by Sept. 25.
In denying Alabama’s request for a stay, the justices said the state’s voters would not have to endure another congressional election under an “illegal map.”
“We reiterate that we are deeply disturbed that the state has issued a map that the minister readily admits does not provide the remedy that we believe federal law requires. And we are troubled by the evidence that the State delayed remedial action but did not even have the ambition to provide the necessary relief,” the justices wrote.
The Alabama Attorney General’s Office has indicated it will pursue the stay request to the Supreme Court. This filing could take place as early as Monday evening.
Alabama’s Republican-controlled legislature hastily drew new boundaries this summer after the U.S. Supreme Court in June upheld the panel’s finding that the map – drawn in a state where 27% of residents are black – had a majority black district – probably a violation of the US Voting Rights Act.
When the three-judge panel struck down Alabama’s map last year, it said the state should have two districts where black voters have the opportunity to elect their preferred candidates. Because of the state’s racially polarized elections, that map would have to include a second district in which black voters are the majority, or “something fairly close,” the justices wrote.
In July, Alabama lawmakers passed a new map that retained a single majority-black district and increased the share of black voters in another district, District 2, from about 30% to nearly 40%.
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