Federal Court Blocks Alabama’s New Congressional Map, Orders Lawmakers to Draw Map with Two Majority-Black Districts

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — A federal court today struck down Alabama’s newly drawn congressional map.

As a result of the preliminary injunction, the state Legislature must draft a new congressional map that complies with the Voting Rights Act by including two districts where Black voters have the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice.

The ruling was issued by a unanimous three-judge court in a lawsuit filed in November 2021 on behalf of Greater Birmingham Ministries, Alabama State Conference of the NAACP, and several individuals who are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Alabama, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), Hogan Lovells LLP, and Wiggins, Childs, Pantazis, Fisher & Goldfarb.

The state’s current map only has a single majority-Black district, District 7, which includes part of Birmingham and some of the Black Belt in Alabama. While Black people are about 27% of Alabama’s population, they are represented in only one of seven (14%) congressional districts.

“Black people drove a disproportionate share of Alabama’s population growth. Throughout last year, Black Alabamians publicly called on the Legislature to recognize this reality and sought equal representation in Congress,” said LDF Senior Counsel Deuel Ross. “The state ignored these demands, but we are deeply gratified that the unanimous court found that Black voters deserve full representation now. We look forward to working with the Legislature to ensure that Black voters are fairly represented in any remedial map.”

“The congressional map our Legislature enacted fails Alabama’s voters of color,” said plaintiff Evan Milligan. “We deserve to be heard in our electoral process, rather than have our votes diluted using a map that purposefully cracks and packs Black communities. Today, the court recognized this harm and has ordered our elected officials to do better. My co-plaintiffs and I hope that more Alabamians will embrace the important role we play in holding our officials accountable, until all of Alabama’s voters are fairly represented.”

“We’ve said since the beginning that we would refuse to let unconstitutional maps be used without a fight, so we are pleased that the court recognized the importance of urgently remedying the congressional district maps ahead of November’s election,” said Tish Gotell Faulks, legal director for the ACLU of Alabama. “It’s past time for Alabama to move beyond its sordid history of racial discrimination at the polls, and to listen to and be responsive to the needs and concerns of voters of color. Not ensuring access to the ballot for all of the people and communities in Alabama is holding this state back from realizing its full potential.”

Davin Rosborough, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said, “This ruling provides an important win because it blocks lawmakers from manipulating district lines to undermine the political power of the Black voters in Alabama.” 

Jessica Ellsworth, a partner in Hogan Lovells’ Litigation and Appellate Practice, added, “The court today issued a careful, thoughtful and detailed ruling in which it unanimously determined that plaintiffs had amply demonstrated entitlement to immediate relief based on the inequity and impropriety of Alabama’s hastily drawn congressional redistricting plan.”

Every 10 years, new political maps are drawn as part of the redistricting process by using census data. This process determines the allocation of political power, representation, and ultimately resource access at every level of government across the country, and the maps remain in place until the following cycle.

This is the first redistricting cycle since the enactment of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 without preclearance.

Preclearance required states like Alabama with an extensive history of racial discrimination in voting to get their maps approved by a federal court or the U.S. Department of Justice. Without preclearance, Alabama and other states have enacted racially discriminatory maps to silence Black voters.

In five of the six redistricting cycles since 1960, the DOJ or federal courts have found that Alabama’s legislative districts — congressional, state, or both — violate the rights of voters under the U.S. Constitution or the Voting Rights Act.

Read the federal court’s decision granting the preliminary injunction here: https://www.aclualabama.org/sites/default/files/field_documents/milligan_pi_decision.pdf

Originally posted on ACLU Alabama website