A federal court on Monday rejected Alabama’s bid to use a newly proposed Congressional district map in upcoming elections over concerns it provides fewer opportunities for racial minorities to elect representatives of their choice.
In a 225-page ruling (pdf) on Monday, the three-judge panel said that the state should have two districts, instead of one, in which black voters make up a sizeable portion of the electorate.
The Alabama Legislature last year approved congressional district lines that maintain one majority-black district.
Monday’s ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed in November last year on behalf of Greater Birmingham Ministries, Alabama State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and black registered voters in Alabama’s First, Second, and Seventh Congressional Districts.
Judges said the newly proposed Congressional district map, put forward by Alabama’s seven-member congressional delegation, likely violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act which prohibits voting practices that discriminate on the basis of race and color, among other things.
The state’s seven-member congressional delegation is made up of six Republicans and one Democrat.
The map put forward by the state has one single majority-black district, District 7, which includes “part of Birmingham and some of the Black Belt in Alabama,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Alabama.
“While Black people are about 27 percent of Alabama’s population, they are represented in only one of seven (14 percent) congressional districts,” ACLU said.
“Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress,” the judges wrote in their ruling, adding 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.”
Judges said that the plaintiffs are “substantially likely to prevail on their claim under the Voting Rights Act,” and because of this, the “appropriate remedy is a congressional redistricting plan that includes either an additional majority-Black congressional district or an additional district in which Black voters otherwise have an opportunity to elect a representative of their choice.”
The federal judges subsequently blocked use of the newly-drawn map and also stayed the candidate qualification deadline with political parties for two weeks to allow the state to draw up another map.
“Based on the evidentiary record before us, we are confident that the Legislature can accomplish its task,” judges said.
“As the Legislature considers such plans, it should be mindful of the practical reality, based on the ample evidence of intensely racially polarized voting adduced during the preliminary injunction proceedings, that any remedial plan will need to include two districts in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it,” the judges wrote.
If the state legislature does not meet the Feb. 11 deadline to pass a remedial plan, the court will provide “an eminently qualified expert to draw on an expedited basis a map that complies with federal law for use in Alabama’s 2022 congressional elections.”
A spokesperson for Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall told The Epoch Times that his office “strongly disagrees” with the ruling and would appeal the decision “in the coming days.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.