A federal court in Alabama on Thursday ordered the state to use a new congressional map that includes a second district where Black voters will have an opportunity to decide the result.
The order comes after about two years of litigation over the state’s districts drawn after the 2020 census. A three-judge panel found the map violated the Voting Rights Act because it denied opportunities to Black voters.
The new map is widely expected to give Democrats a chance to pick up a second of the seven seats in the state. In the prior map, Black voters made up a majority of one of the state’s seven congressional districts.
Challengers, which included voters and the state’s NAACP, argued that legislators had packed as many Black voters as they could into the 7th District, held by Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell.
The new map would significantly alter the 7th District, as well as much of the southern portion of the state. The 7th District would have a 51.9 percent Black voting age population, while the new 2nd District would stretch in a band across the state and have a 48.7 percent Black voting-age population.
The map was among several alternatives proposed by a court-appointed expert. Republican state officials may appeal the order to the Supreme Court, where the case has been twice already, including last month.
The Supreme Court earlier this year upheld the judges’ initial finding that the map violated the VRA.
Backers of the challenge, including the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, praised the order. Former Attorney General Eric Holder, the group’s chairman, criticized Alabama’s “shameful intransigence” throughout the case in a statement.
“This historic development will strengthen voting rights and ensure equal representation for so many Americans,” Holder said.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday that the Supreme Court’s earlier decision in the case “confirmed the basic principle that voting practices should not discriminate on account of race.”
“We’re glad to see that process result in a federal court selecting a map that allows all the people of Alabama to have their voices heard,” Jean-Pierre said at a White House news conference.
Republicans have argued that Democrats have gamed redistricting litigation to attempt to win control of the House. National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Jack Pandol in a statement Thursday accused Democrats of “suing to tilt the playing field” in their favor.
“Republicans are more committed than ever to growing our majority despite Democrats’ legal end-runs around the voters who reject their extreme policies,” Pandol said.
Experts have said that litigation over redistricting in Alabama and elsewhere could decide the balance of power in the closely divided House of Representatives next year. A similar VRA suit against Louisiana will go before a panel of judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit on Friday.