HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — The State of Alabama and the plaintiffs who successfully sued to redraw the state’s congressional map will be in court in Birmingham on Tuesday.
A federal three-judge panel found the map drawn by the Alabama Legislature in 2021 and again in 2023 appears to violate the Voting Rights Act and ordered a special master to develop three alternate maps, with one to be selected as the replacement for the 2024 elections.
Tuesday’s hearing is expected to include recommendations and objections by the parties to those proposed maps. Last week the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Alabama’s request to stop the court-ordered map-making process.
For the past few months much of the discussion centered on the battle over the court’s directive that a second majority or near-majority Black voting age population district be drawn.
That is now taking shape in the newly proposed U.S. House District 2. So, the parties will make at least one more argument on which of the three district maps they prefer. That decision appears closely tied to the court-appointed special master’s findings about how a preferred candidate would fare based on the three different maps.
The special master’s report used historical data taken from the plaintiffs and the Alabama Legislature to assess how a Black voter preferred candidate would have fared by looking at 17 prior elections:
District 2, with map 1: 15 of 17 contests won, +10.3 average victory margin; map 2: 13 of 17 contests won, +8.2% victory margin, and map 3: 16 of 17 contests won, +10.3% margin of victory.
The State of Alabama filed notice with the court Thursday that it objected to all three proposed maps, but disliked map 1 the most because it splits Houston County. The plaintiffs said in a court filing they prefer either map 1 or 3, based on the analysis of how candidates would do in the elections.
Map 2 seems to give the Black-voter preferred candidate the lowest chance of winning of the three maps, based on the special master’s findings.
The special master was asked by the court to answer by Monday if map 2 created a district of opportunity.
His response included the most recent election data showing all three maps with close results for the preferred candidate, including a narrow loss in map 2 in 2022. But, the special master said voter turnout in 2022 was also historically low, and if voter turnout patterns hold, all three maps create an opportunity district.
“The Special Master acknowledges, as he did in his initial Report and Recommendation, that the proposed plans offer a range of performance levels, and that the performance of the Black preferred candidate in District 2 is slightly weaker in Remedial Plan 2 than in Remedial Plans 1 and 3, with an average margin of victory across seventeen election contests of +8.2%, compared to +10.3% for Remedial Plans 1 and 3,” according to the Special Master’s court filing Monday.
“In other words, the District 2 Black-preferred candidate in Remedial Plan 2, on average, would perform roughly two percentage points below their performance in the other two plans, but still would be expected to win most election contests.
“That two percentage point difference would have changed the outcome of several 2022 elections in District 2 in Remedial Plan 2, but not in Remedial Plans 1 and 3. Nonetheless, and considering the points below, the Special Master reaffirms that District 2 in Remedial Plan 2 would be an effective opportunity district.”
The special master had previously found that the legislature’s map drawn during the
2023 special session would “almost never” result in a Black-voter preferred candidate
winning in District 2, with a typical losing margin of 6 percent.