HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — The parties in the Alabama congressional map Voting Rights Act challenge have filed requested briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court over the request by the state for a stay.

Tuesday afternoon was the deadline set by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas who is assigned to hear emergency petitions from Alabama, Georgia and Florida as part of the high court’s division of labor.

The plaintiffs in the case were given until 4 p.m. central daylight time to answer Alabama’s request to stay a three-judge panel from moving forward with map-making. Two weeks ago, the panel rejected the map drawn by the Alabama Legislature during a special session in July.  

Alabama responded by asking the high court to stay the lower court’s order that a special master oversee map-making by court-appointed cartographers. The panel rejected that request and Alabama filed an emergency petition with the high court.  

The three-judge panel has chided Alabama for failing to follow the court’s directive to draw two congressional districts that include a Black voting age majority or near majority population. Attorneys for Alabama have argued that would be unconstitutional, a claim that the panel has repeatedly disputed.

In rejecting Alabama’s request for a stay, the three-judge panel suggested the state’s petition had a low chance of success.

“Likewise, it is exceptionally unusual for a litigant who has presented his arguments to the Supreme Court once already — and lost — to assert that he is now ‘overwhelmingly likely’ to prevail on those same arguments in that Court in this case,” the panel said. “Like our first injunction, our second injunction rests on an exhaustive application of settled law to a robust evidentiary record that includes extensive fact stipulations,” the order stated.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court had endorsed the lower court’s finding that a second district would create the “opportunity” for Black Alabama voters to elect the congress member of their choice. The court has found that Alabama’s Black population, 27% according to the 2020 Census, was large enough and geographically compact enough to justify a second such district.

Alabama has refused that directive. The map drawn by the Alabama Legislature in July included one district where the Black majority voting age population was just over 50 percent and a second district with a 40 percent Black voting age population.

In its petition to the Supreme Court last week, Alabama raised the specter of racial discrimination in arguing against the court-ordered second opportunity district.

“The balance of harms supports a stay so that millions of Alabama voters are not soon districted into that court-ordered racial gerrymander,” Alabama argued in its court filing. “Race-based redistricting at the expense of traditional principles ‘bears an uncomfortable resemblance to political apartheid.’”

In its response today, the plaintiffs who brought the Voting Rights Act challenge to the map back in 2021 said Alabama’s push for a stay would continue to harm Black voters. The plaintiffs say the state is not acting in the public interest.

“But the district court made unchallenged findings that the Legislature’s refusal to draw a second opportunity district demonstrated its ‘unwilling to respond to the well-documented needs of Black Alabamians.’ That is Alabama’s flagrant disregard of court orders and ‘significant lack of responsiveness’ to a sizeable portion of the electorate harms the strong public interest in protecting the right to vote and the rule of law. The Secretary’s “deeply troubling” stay application runs counter to the interest of our courts, our nation and all Alabamians.”

The U.S. Supreme Court rules require five of nine justices to vote for a stay, but only four are needed to grant “certiorari,” essentially an order by the Supreme Court to the lower court to send the case record up for review.

Six of seven of Alabama’s congressional delegation members also filed a petition with the high court today, arguing that the panel erred in rejecting the Alabama Legislature’s July 2023 map.

The court challenge focuses on Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which reads in part: “No person acting under color of law shall— in determining whether any individual is qualified under State law or laws to vote in any election, apply any standard, practice, or procedure different from the standards, practices, or procedures applied under such law or laws to other individuals within the same county, parish, or similar political subdivision who have been found by State officials to be qualified to vote …”