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Justice

Alabama, US flag
Photo credit: Shannon McGee / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A three-judge panel has turned over the task of drawing Alabama’s new congressional map to independent experts after the GOP-led legislature submitted yet another racist version of its map that violates the Voting Rights Act.

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After Alabama Republicans brazenly defied the Supreme Court and passed yet another racist congressional map in July, a panel of three federal judges on Tuesday ruled that the legislators are not up to the task and that it should instead be completed by independent experts.

In June, the Supreme Court had sided with the same panel, which had ordered the state to redraw the previous map because it violated the Voting Rights Act. Specifically, Alabama Republicans were found guilty of trying to illegally dilute the political power of its Black residents.

The courts tasked the lawmakers with producing a new congressional map that either created a second district in which Black voters held a majority or one in which they at least had the chance to elect a candidate of their choice.

Instead, the GOP-controlled Legislature approved a map that did neither of these things. As a result, the panel now said the responsibility for drawing a fair map should rest with a special master and a cartographer.

“[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.

They also left little doubt that Alabama Republicans would not remedy this Voting Rights Act violation on their own.

“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,” they wrote.

Voting rights activists hailed the decision.

“Twice, Alabama lawmakers have been asked to draw fair congressional districts that give Black Alabamians the opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice. And twice, a panel of federal judges have found that Alabama lawmakers failed to do so,” said JaTaune Bosby Gilchrist, the executive director of the ACLU. “Elected officials ignored their responsibilities and chose to violate our democracy. We hope the court’s special master helps steward a process that ensures a fair map that Black Alabamians and our state deserve.”

In the meantime, the Alabama attorney general’s office said it would appeal the ruling. Alabama officials believe that the map that does not create a second district that gives Black voters the opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice does comply with the decision requiring them to do just that.

It will be interesting to see what the Supreme Court has to say about that, especially because its original decision was already viewed as quite surprising in light of the court’s 6-3 conservative majority.

The ruling is the latest setback for state and national Republicans, who have used extreme gerrymanders across the country to not only cement their power in not only deep-red but also purple states like Wisconsin or North Carolina.

In recent weeks, different courts have ruled that some of these maps will have to be redrawn, which would make it easier for Democrats to win back control of the House.

More importantly, however, these decisions would restore democracy to these states. 

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