Court Intervenes After Ala. Lawmakers Ignore SCOTUS Ruling to Stop Silencing Black Voters: ‘We Are Disturbed’

In a rare scathing opinion, federal judges chastised Alabama's state legislature for refusing to re-draw a fair congressional map

John Woodworth / Getty Images State Capitol Building in Montgomery, Alabama
John Woodworth / Getty Images State Capitol Building in Montgomery, Alabama

A federal court has struck down Alabama lawmakers' latest congressional map, with judges writing that they are "disturbed" by how the Republican-controlled legislature drew its districts. In a scathing opinion, the court said the state "did not even nurture the ambition" to comply with the Voting Rights Act and create a district that's reflective of the state's Black population.

Earlier this year, federal judges threw out a seven-district congressional map drawn up by Republican lawmakers after finding it may have violated the landmark Voting Rights Act by diluting the power of Black voters in the state.

Following an appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with the lower court, ruling that the map did appear to discriminate against Black voters. While Black residents comprise some 27% of Alabama’s population, just one of the state’s seven districts is currently drawn to include a majority-Black population.

The Alabama legislature was then ordered to comply with the Voting Rights Act and re-draw districts that accurately reflect the state's population. Instead, judges say, the Republican legislature proposed an updated map that would continue to benefit Republicans, rather than Black voters.

Related: Alabama Legislature Ignores Supreme Court’s Order to Create Another Majority-Black Congressional District

"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 said in a new ruling filed Tuesday. "The law requires the creation of an additional district that affords Black Alabamians, like everyone else, a fair and reasonable opportunity to elect candidates of their choice. The 2023 Plan plainly fails to do so."

The judges added they were "deeply troubled that the State enacted a map that the State readily admits does not provide the remedy we said federal law requires. We are disturbed by the evidence that the State delayed remedial proceedings but ultimately did not even nurture the ambition to provide the required remedy."

Related: Supreme Court, in Shock 5-4 Decision, Rules That Alabama Discriminated Against Black Voters

The federal court added that, because the state refused to create a map that would be reflective of the Alabama population, it would appoint a special master to draw a seat in which Black people would be properly represented.

“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 court said in its order, noting, "We do not take lightly federal intrusion into a process ordinarily reserved for the State Legislature."

A new Congressional map in Alabama is likely to have a national impact once it is approved. The Democratic Party lost its majority in the U.S. House of Representatives by only a few seats in the 2022 midterms, which could explain why Alabama Republicans have so far not compromised on creating a district that accurately reflects the makeup of the state.

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