ALABAMA (WHNT) — Just a few days after a court-appointed Special Master submitted three proposed district maps, Alabama’s Secretary of State and some legislators have objected to those maps.
Secretary of State Wes Allen and Representative Chris Pringle and Senator Steve Livingston, the House and Senate Chairs of the Legislature’s Reapportionment Committee, filed their objections to the proposed remedial maps on Thursday.
“The three maps proposed by the Special Master share the same general structure with each other, with the Plaintiffs’ “VRA Plan,” and with every demonstrative plan submitted by the Milligan and Caster Plaintiffs. They divide Mobile City, Mobile County, and the Gulf Coast counties so that black voters in Mobile County can be linked to black voters in Montgomery and eastern Alabama for a new District 2,” both filings say.
Special Master Richard Allen said the court directed he and his “team to file, by September 25, 2023, three proposed remedial maps to remedy the likely Section Two violation identified by the Court.”
In response to earlier court orders, the Alabama Legislature held a special session in July and produced its own new congressional map, but the three-judge panel that heard the initial lawsuits and found Voting Rights Act problems rejected that map.
In both of the objections, Allen and Rep. Pringle and Sen. Livingston say they maintain their argument that the districts based on this structure are, “unconstitutional racial gerrymanders that harm Alabama voters by subjecting them to racial classifications. In carrying out the Court’s orders, the Special Master’s proposed plans carry forward what [defendant] maintains are errors the Court has made in its preliminary findings.”
They state that even if alterations were made to the Special Master’s plans by a demographer “race-blind,” the starting point was still a point where race was prioritized over traditional criteria and the changes are too unmodest to undo those decisions.
Of all the maps, Allen and the legislators say Remedial Plan 1 is the most objectionable because it splits Houston County in a way they believe is unnecessary, as the split makes more changes than they say are needed to cure the likely section 2 violation.
“A federal court cannot ‘override the legislature’s remedial map’ in a way that goes beyond what is necessary to meet the demands of federal law, North Carolina v. Covington, 138 S. Ct. 2548, 2554 (2018), which is precisely what would happen if this superfluous split of Houston County is included in a court-drawn plan,” the objection says.
They go on to say Remedial Plan 2 fractures that community of interest more than necessary to remedy, placing “Henry County, considered to be part of the Wiregrass, in District 2 with the Black Belt,” while Remedial Plan 3 shows it is possible to place Henry County with the majority of Wiregrass counties in District 1.
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Finally, the officials all say in their objections that the ‘intrusion’ of District 2 into Mobile County in plan 3 will likely make it more difficult to reassign voters accurately in the county before the deadlines that apply. “The relative length of the dividing line between Districts 1 and 2 will
likely translate into additional difficulties in sorting voters into their new districts,” the defendants said.