Alabama Republicans on Tuesday advanced proposals to boost the number of Black voters in one of the state’s seven congressional districts, but critics said the plans flout a court order to create a second majority-Black district or something close to it.
Lawmakers must adopt new maps by Friday after the U.S. Supreme Court in June upheld a finding that the current state map — with one majority-Black district in a state that is 27% Black — likely violated the federal Voting Rights Act.
Republican-controlled legislative committees on Tuesday voted down proposals to create a second majority-Black district and advanced separate GOP plans that would increase the percentage of Black voters in the 2nd Congressional district from about 30% to either 38% or 42% That is short of the 50% sought by plaintiffs who won the Supreme Court case.
Republicans said their plan complies with the court’s directive to draw a district where Black voters are present in enough numbers to influence the outcome of an election.
Marina Jenkins, executive director of the National Redistricting Foundation, which supported the court challenge to the Alabama map, said the GOP proposals don’t “come anywhere close to achieving” what the court had ordered.
Alabama state Sen. Vivian Davis Figures holds a copy of a GOP congressional map proposal at the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery on July 18, 2023. Figures said Republicans are flouting a court order to create a second majority-Black congressional district. (AP Photo/Kim Chandler)
“Alabama Republicans are intentionally drawing political retention maps at the expense of Black Alabamians — in defiance of the Supreme Court and the Alabama district court. It is a continuation of the state’s long, sordid history of disenfranchising Black voters. Should either of these maps be enacted, it will be challenged in court,” Jenkins said in a statement.
Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, a Democratic lawmaker from Mobile, also said the proposal is “no where close” to what was suggested by the court. She said the district would remain under white Republican control with those numbers.
The three-judge panel found that Alabama’s existing congressional map diluted the voting power of Black residents.
“The appropriate remedy is a congressional redistricting plan that includes either an additional majority-Black congressional district, or an additional district in which Black voters otherwise have an opportunity to elect a representative of their choice,” the lower-court panel wrote in its 2022 ruling. It added that the plan would need to include two districts in which “Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it.”
Rep. Barbara Boyd, a Democratic lawmaker from Anniston, said Alabama has a long history of “refusing to do the right thing.”
“Don’t continue to allow the courts to have to force us to do what we know is right,” Boyd told her colleagues on the House committee.