Wednesday, September 6, 2023
A three-judge district court again rejected Alabama's congressional map, which again includes only one opportunity district for Alabama Black voters. The ruling comes after the state legislature took another stab in response to the Supreme Court case this summer, Allen v. Milligan, upholding the lower court's ruling that the first map likely violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
The legislature's delays and intransigence are bold, to say the least. Here's what the court said in its most recent ruling:
We are disturbed by the evidence that the State delayed remedial proceedings but ultimately did not even nurture the ambition to provide the required remedy. And we are struck by the extraordinary circumstances we face. We are not aware of any other case in which a state legislature--faced with a federal court order declaring that its electoral plan unlawfully dilutes minority votes and requiring a plan that provides an additional opportunity district--responded with a plan that the state concedes does not provide that district. The law requires the creation of an additional district that affords Black Alabamians, like everyone else, a fair and reasonable opportunity to elect candidates of their choice. The 2023 Plan fails to do so.
The district court appointed experts to draw new maps, due by September 25. Meanwhile, the state's appealing to the Supreme Court. If Alabama manages to drag this out long enough, it could as a practical matter avoid drawing a second opportunity district for the 2024 congressional election, even if the courts rule against it. That's because of the Purcell principle--the idea, applied with increasing force by the Court, that courts shouldn't force changes to election laws too close to an election, for fear of confusing voters. Given that it's only September 2023, that may seem far-fetched. But really, who knows? Alabama's gambits have put this case in unchartered territory.