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Supreme Court allows process to redraw Alabama congressional map

Latest maps proposed by court-appointed expert would add a second Black-opportunity congressional seat in the state

The Supreme Court building in 2021.
The Supreme Court building in 2021. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Supreme Court declined Tuesday to halt a court-ordered process to redraw Alabama’s congressional map before next year’s election to comply with the Voting Rights Act.

The brief orders Tuesday included no further explanation why the justices declined an Alabama official’s request to intervene now in the yearslong litigation over the state’s congressional map.

An expert appointed by the lower court submitted several proposed maps in the case Monday, all of which would add a second Black-opportunity congressional seat in the state.

Black voters make up more than a quarter of the state’s population and make up a majority in only one of the state’s congressional districts, represented by Rep. Terri A. Sewell. The new map is widely considered likely to allow a second Democratic seat in the state, which is currently represented by six Republicans and one Democrat, Sewell.

With the House closely divided, litigation over maps in states like Alabama could play a role in control of the chamber following next year’s election.

Litigation over Alabama’s map has proceeded for the last two years. In June, the Supreme Court ruled against Alabama, which resulted in the lower court order for the state to redraw its map to include a second Black majority district “or something quite close to it.”

Then the state passed a new map that has one majority-Black voting-age district and a second with a roughly 40 percent Black voting-age population. The three-judge panel found that still violated the voting rights law and appointed an outside expert to propose new maps.

Earlier this month Alabama Secretary of State Wes Allen asked the justices in an emergency application to intervene in the court-ordered redraw of the map and allow the state to use its own redrawn map rather than the expert-drawn one.

Allen argued that the issue before the Supreme Court is now “whether a State must sacrifice traditional districting criteria to join voters from different communities, based on their race, to hit a 50-percent racial target, ‘or something quite close to it,’” as the lower court ordered. “The answer should be a resounding no.”

The state has argued that the redrawn map united the so-called “Black Belt” of communities across the central portion of the state without contorting the map to draw a second Black opportunity district.

Challengers, who first filed suit against the map in 2021, have argued that the state has tried to preserve a history of racial discrimination. In the Supreme Court emergency application, the challengers argued the state has tried to game the legal system to hold onto a map already found to violate the law.

“The Secretary is not entitled to a stay to implement a congressional map that openly defies the clear rulings of the district court and this Court,” they said in their brief.

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