The congressional map in Alabama is getting national attention yet again, this time after a panel of judges threw out the latest version of the map. It’s déjà vu all over again since earlier this year the Supreme Court weighed in on the issue and also ordered Alabama to change its map. To help clarify what this means for Alabama, voting rights, and the courts, we turned to our Senior Counsel Elliot Mincberg to answer some of our burning questions on the Alabama congressional map.
Why did the court throw out Alabama’s congressional map?
The 3-judge court threw out Alabama’s latest effort to redraw its map for congressional districts because it failed to comply with the court’s earlier order, as affirmed by the Supreme Court, that the state redraw those districts to reflect the increase in Black population in the state and what should be Black voting strength. In particular, the court previously ruled that the map should include one additional district that is majority Black to reflect that voting strength, but the state legislature refused.
What will happen as a result of this decision?
Two things: First, the court has directed that court-appointed experts submit drafts of proposed maps by late September, with a hearing on any objections on October 3. The court is likely to adopt a plan for the 2024 elections shortly after that. In addition, perhaps even before the October 3 hearing, Alabama will again go to the Supreme Court and try to get it to stop the 3-judge court from acting and to permit the state to go forward with its plan.
How does this case relate to Allen v Milligan which was heard before the Supreme Court earlier this year?
This decision reflects the next step after Milligan, in which the Supreme Court upheld the 3-judge court’s previous order striking down Alabama’s previous redistricting plan by a 5-4 vote. Alabama submitted a revised plan that did NOT include an additional majority Black district despite the court’s order. In this decision, the 3-judge court rejected that plan as illegal under the Voting Rights Act because it improperly dilutes Black voting strength, stating that it is “deeply troubled” by Alabama’s actions. It should be noted that 2 of the 3 judges were nominated by Donald Trump, reflecting how extreme the state’s position is.
Did Alabama state lawmakers ignore a ruling from the Supreme Court?
Effectively, yes. The Court ruled in the Milligan case that the 3-judge court was right to require Alabama to create an additional majority Black district to reflect Black voting strength, but Alabama refused to do so.
What could happen next with this case? Will it go back to the Supreme Court?
Alabama has already said that it will try to take the case again to the Supreme Court. It obviously hopes that at least one member of the 5-4 majority that upheld the lower court’s previous order, perhaps Justice Kavanaugh, will switch sides and rule for the state.
Why is representation on congressional maps so important?
It is crucial because how redistricting maps are drawn often determines whether voters’ preferences are truly reflected in final election results and whether there is discrimination against minority voters. In this case, it has already been suggested that adding a majority Black district in Alabama could “help change the balance of power” in the US House of Representatives after the 2024 elections.
We’re watching this one closely because we know how crucial voting rights are to a thriving democracy. People For has been working to defend voting rights for more than 40 years, and we need members and supporters like you to keep up this vital work. You can help us stay on top of the latest developments in the fight for full voting rights and push back against far-right attempts to disenfranchise voters by becoming a member today.