U.S. Supreme Court rejects Alabama’s request to stay redistricting decision

By: - September 26, 2023 9:40 am
The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. (Jim Small | Arizona Mirror)

The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. (Jim Small | Arizona Mirror)

The United States Supreme Court Tuesday denied Alabama’s request to stay a lower court decision directing a special master to draw new congressional maps for Alabama to remedy Voting Rights Act violations.

The nation’s high court dismissed the request in two one-sentence orders Tuesday morning. No opinions were given with the decision, which could open the door to Alabama having two congressional districts with majority or near-majority Black populations.

Deuel Ross of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, representing plaintiffs who challenged Alabama’s maps, said in a phone interview Tuesday morning, said they were “excited and happy” about the ruling, coming a day after a special master submitted three proposed congressional maps creating two new congressional districts with between 48 and 53% Black Voting Age Population (BVAP).

“All these maps are better than what Alabama had proposed,” Ross said. “I think we’re still trying to figure out where we land on the three maps that special master’s proposed. ”

A message seeking comment was sent to the Alabama attorney general’s office on Tuesday.

A three-judge panel in 2022 ruled that Alabama’s 2021 congressional map violated the Voting Rights Act by packing Black voters into a single congressional district. The panel, citing the racial polarization of voting in Alabama — where white Alabamians tend to support Republicans and Black Alabamians tend to support Democrats — ordered the state to draw a second-majority Black district or “something quite close to it.”

After the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the lower court ruling last June, the Alabama Legislature in July approved a new map that created a 7th Congressional District in western Alabama and Birmingham with a BVAP of 50.65%, and a 2nd Congressional District in southeastern Alabama with a BVAP of less than 40%.

Plaintiffs said that map did not address the court’s orders, and the three-judge panel agreed earlier this month. U.S. Circuit Judge Stanley Marcus and U.S. district judges Anna Manasco and Terry Moorer ordered special master Richard Allen to draw new maps while accusing legislators of ignoring their initial ruling.

“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 judges wrote.

The state appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing the ruling would lead to “racial stereotyping” and violated their own redistricting principles.

The plaintiffs and the state have until Thursday to respond to Allen’s proposals.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

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Jemma Stephenson
Jemma Stephenson

Jemma Stephenson covers education as a reporter for the Alabama Reflector. She previously worked at the Montgomery Advertiser and graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.