HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT)– Despite a rejection by the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall vowed to continue to oppose the effort by a federal three-judge panel to establish a new congressional map for Alabama for the 2024 election.
“Today, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Alabama’s request for emergency relief in the state’s redistricting case,” Marshall said. “The State will now be encumbered with a racially gerrymandered, court-drawn map for the 2024 election cycle.”
Marshall’s office has challenged the panel’s findings dating back to January 2022, when the court sided with plaintiffs who argued Alabama’s congressional map – drawn in 2021 after the 2020 U.S. Census – appeared to violate the Voting Rights Act. The panel said a new map should be drawn.
Alabama appealed that ruling and got a stay from the U.S. Supreme Court for the 2022 election. The high court heard arguments in the case last October and in a June ruling agreed with the lower court on apparent Voting Rights Act violations.
The Alabama Legislature was directed to draw a new map in a July special session. That map was completed and turned over to the court, but it did not include a second “opportunity” district called for the by court. The court said the map should include a second district that would allow Black voters in Alabama a chance to elect the Congress member of their choice.
The three-judge panel said Alabama’s map didn’t remedy the Voting Rights Act problems and it directed a court-appointed special master to draw three maps and provide them to the court by Sept. 25.
After the court rejected Alabama’s map and its request to stay the special master’s work, the state asked the U.S. Supreme Court to order a stay. Tuesday, the court without comment, rejected that request.
The heart of the dispute is the creation of a second district where Black voters have the opportunity to elect a congress member of their choice The special master said he looked at prior races with data from the plaintiffs and the legislature.
The special master’s three maps for District 2 show the Black preferred candidate winning between 13 and 16 of 17 races, by 8 to 10 percent margins.
The legislature’s map drawn in July, continued the strength of Black voters in District 7, but offered a very different likely outcome for District 2, the special master said.
“That plan includes one district (District 7) that often would elect the Black-preferred candidate, the special master’s report said. “The next-best district (District 2) would almost never elect the Black-preferred candidate, and the Black-preferred candidate would have lost elections by an average margin of 6.1 percent.”
Marshall said he will continue to argue on behalf of the map drawn by the legislature in July.
“There should be nothing more offensive to the people of our great state than to be sidelined in 2023 by a view of Alabama that is stuck in 1963,” Alabama’s Attorney General said. “This racial agenda is pressed by left-wing activists, not just in Alabama, but in any Republican state where it might advantage Democrats. If this brazen and divisive commandeering is permitted without even a whisper of concern from other quarters, America’s congressional elections as we know them will never be the same. We will be grouped together by race alone, with counties and cities split down the middle—the same way that we were so wrongfully segregated once before.
“My Office will continue our fight to defend the 2023 map, which was enacted by the people’s representatives, and which complies with both the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution’s promise that governments should be colorblind. We will comply with the district court’s preliminary injunction order, while building our case for the 2023 map, which has yet to receive a full hearing. We are confident that the Voting Rights Act does not require, and the Constitution does not allow, ‘separate but equal’ congressional districts.”
The three-judge panel set aside Oct. 3 for a hearing for objections to the special master’s work.
The three maps drawn by the special master mostly alter the composition of District 2 in South Alabama, which stretches across the state. The special master said the maps were not made by creating a district modeled on Black voting age population, but rather how Black voters’ preferred candidates performed in prior elections using those districts. But the maps also result in changes to District 2 and 7’s Black voting age populations.
The Alabama Legislature’s 2023 map had a District 7 with a Black voting age population of 51 percent. That map’s District 2 Black voting age population was 41 percent.
The three proposed maps by the special master include Black voting age populations in District 2 of 50.1%; 48.5% and 48.7%. For District 7, the population figures are 52.8%; 52.8% and 51.9%.
The court set an in-person hearing for October 3 at the U.S. courthouse in Birmingham.