Voting Rights Act
Sign in Alabama commemorating the approval of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Adam Jones /Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In the fight against gerrymandering, this was a rare victory.

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The long fight of Alabama Republicans to deny their state’s Black population equal representation in Congress came to an end on Thursday when a federal court picked a new congressional map that will likely lose the GOP a seat in the upcoming election.

In the fight against gerrymandering, this was a rare victory for democracy. However, the fact that it was so hard-fought also illustrates the challenges that the activists face who want congressional maps to be drawn more fairly.

In this case, the battle over Alabama’s unconstitutional map went all the way to the Supreme Court, which surprisingly ruled that the state would have to add a second majority-minority district to the map (or something coming close to it).

However, Alabama’s Republicans defied that decision — and the Voting Rights Act — and came up with yet another gerrymander that would likely prevent Blacks voters from having an opportunity to elect a candidate of their choosing in more than one district.

As a result, a federal court took it upon itself to pick a map for next year’s election that should result in a more representative split of the state’s congressional delegation.

“With this new, fairer map, and for the first time ever, Black voters in Alabama could have two members of Congress representing their interests at the same time,” said Eric Holder, who served as attorney general during the Obama administration and has since been involved in fighting gerrymandering. His organization, the National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC), was part of the lawsuit that led to today’s victory.

The new map includes one majority-Black district and a second one in which Black residents make up slightly less than half of the population. They were designed to give these voters an opportunity to elect a candidate of their choosing instead of being disenfranchised, as they had been in the state for many years.

The Republican who is now in danger of losing his seat is Rep. Barry Moore.

It is unclear whether he will even put up a fight or resign.

Moore recently said he would wait until the court picked a map before making a decision.

In that interview, the GOP lawmaker also said that he disagreed with the Supreme Court decision.

“To me, it seems like they’ve almost taken race and made it the primary issue,” he said. “Communities of interest went by the wayside.”

That, of course, is precisely why Alabama Republicans gerrymandered their maps and disenfranchised the state’s Black population.

No matter who runs, it will be a pickup opportunity for the Democrats. In fact, if all of the maps that were challenged since the redistricting process – and found to be in violation of federal and state laws – had been invalidated and changed before the 2022 midterms, it stands to reason that the GOP would not have won a majority.

And this also illustrates that, while this was an important win for democracy, the road to a truly fair representation in Congress will be long and arduous… because those drawing these maps will put everything they have in this point.

Case in point is the statement from Alabama Secretary of State Wes Allen (R) released after the new map had been picked.

“The Office of the Secretary of State will facilitate the 2024 election cycle in accordance with the map the federal court has forced upon Alabama and ordered us to use,” he said. “It is important for all Alabamians to know that the legal portion of this process has not yet been completed.”


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