Speed Reads

Voting Rights

Judges toss out new Alabama congressional map, order state to add a 2nd substantially Black district

A panel of three federal judges in Alabama ruled unanimously Monday that Alabama needs to draw a new congressional map that includes "two districts in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it." The GOP-led state Legislature approved a congressional map last year that retains six majority-white districts and one majority-Black district, even though Alabama's population is about 27 percent Black. Alabama's congressional delegation includes six House Republicans and one House Democrat representing the 7th Congressional District. 

The three judges — one appointed by President Bill Clinton and the other two by President Donald Trump — said the plaintiffs in the three consolidated cases are "substantially likely" to prevail in their claim that Alabama's current congressional map violates the Voting Rights Act.

"Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress," the 225-page ruling says. "We find that the plaintiffs will suffer an irreparable harm if they must vote in the 2022 congressional elections based on a redistricting plan that violates federal law." The judges blocked the current map and pushed back the Jan. 28 deadline for candidate qualification to Feb. 11 to give the Legislature time to approve a remedial map.

If state lawmakers are unable to come up with a new map in two weeks, the judges said they would provide an expert to draw the new districts. But "we are confident that the Legislature can accomplish its task," the judges said, noting that they drew the now-blocked map "in a matter of days" last year.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall's (R) office said it "strongly disagrees with the court's decision and will be appealing in the coming days."