By Taylor Sanchez
Alabama’s latest attempt at redistricting post the Supreme Court decision striking down their original map as an unlawful racial gerrymander has been struck down again by a three-judge panel including U.S. Circuit Judge Stanley Marcus, U.S. District Judge Anna Manasco and U.S. District Judge Terry Moorer. Alabama has stated that they will appeal the ruling to the US Supreme Court, although with the previous opinion less than three months old, it is highly unlikely they will accept the challenge.
The original case centered around annual congressional redistricting and the state of Alabama’s racial gerrymandering. Historically, the state has had seven congressional seats, with six of those seats apportioned in a way to dilute Black voter strength, with only one seat created as an “opportunity” district for Black voters centered around Birmingham. The US Supreme Court ruled in June that a second opportunity district was needed, as the current map violated the Voting Rights Act of 1964. The case was sent back to Alabama’s Legislature, where they once again created six districts that would most likely not be competitive for Black voters, and the one opportunity district centered around Birmingham.
The map was challenged again, and the three-judge panel, in striking down the maps as they are currently drawn, the district court had sharp words for the Alabama Legislature: “The Plaintiffs already suffered this irreparable injury once in this census cycle, when they voted under the unlawful 2021 plan…Accordingly, we find that Plaintiffs will suffer an irreparable harm absent injunctive relief.” The court further notes that if they were to place the ruling on hold, it would be 2026 before relief would occur, requiring Alabamans to vote under unlawful maps in both 2022 and 2024.
The decision, as written, removes redistricting from the Alabama Legislature and places the onus of redrawing the district lines on a special master and his team. According to Marcus, Manasco and Moorer the “state has conceded it would be practically impossible for the Legislature to reconvene in time to enact a new plan for use in the upcoming election.”
The special master will create three maps for the court, and these are expected to be completed within a month.