A federal panel of judges smacked down the Alabama legislature’s bad faith attempt to redraw its congressional map Tuesday, giving the job to a special master.
After the Supreme Court rejected the state’s map in a major and unexpected win for voting rights, the legislature went back to the drawing board with explicit instructions to create another Black majority district, or at least one that gives Black voters the opportunity to elect the candidate of their choice. The legislature chose not to follow those directives.
“The State concedes that the 2023 Plan does not include an additional opportunity district,” Tuesday’s three-judge panel wrote. “Indeed, the State has explained that its position is that notwithstanding our order and the Supreme Court’s affirmance, the Legislature was not required to include an additional opportunity district in the 2023 Plan.”
“That concession controls this case,” it added. “Because the 2023 Plan does not include an additional opportunity district, we conclude that the 2023 Plan does not remedy the likely Section Two violation that we found and the Supreme Court affirmed.”
The panel handed down a preliminary injunction barring the state from using the new map to conduct elections. In a separate filing, it also instructed its experts — a special master and cartographer — to submit three maps by September 25. The court had already appointed Richard Allen, a former chief deputy attorney general in the state and former commissioner of the Alabama Department of Corrections, as special master. David Ely, the president of Compass Demographics, will serve as the cartographer.
The court preemptively scheduled a hearing for potential objections to the special master’s maps on October 3 in Birmingham.
The panel candidly acknowledged Alabama’s refusal to comply with court orders.
“Based on the evidence before us, including testimony from the Legislators, we have no reason to believe that allowing the Legislature still another opportunity to draw yet another map will yield a map that includes an additional opportunity district,” the judges wrote, adding that there likely isn’t time for the legislature to convene and draw up a new map without running afoul of hastily approaching election deadlines.
Alabama Republicans have perhaps taken a cue from their Ohio counterparts, who ignored the state Supreme Court’s orders to redraw, ultimately conducting the 2022 elections under challenged maps.
“We are deeply troubled that the State enacted a map that the State readily admits does not provide the remedy we said federal law requires,” the judges wrote in the Alabama ruling, calling the lawmakers’ refusal to comply with federal court orders an “extraordinary circumstance.”
They also note the “lack of political will to respond to the needs of Black voters in Alabama.”
The Supreme Court decision Allen v. Milligan has rippled into states beyond Alabama, strengthening vote dilution cases against maps in states including Tennessee, Louisiana and Georgia. These cases could have a direct impact on the 2024 elections, as experts expect them to end in the creation of a handful of House seats that favor Democrats.
Read the ruling here: