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ACLU exec: State ‘not ready’ for ‘race neutral’ approach to redistricting

Last week, The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments regarding Alabama’s redrawn congressional district map. The plaintiffs, including The American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, argued that the new map violated the Voting Rights Act because it only includes one minority-majority district.

Friday on Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal” Tish Gotell Faulk, the Legal Director of ACLU Alabama, discussed the Supreme Court case.

“I think that looking at the court,” Faulk said, “it’s clear that there is a dividing line asking the question: do we still need to center a discussion about racial makeup or have we evolved to a place to where that is no longer relevant?”

Faulk believes race must be taken into consideration for Blacks to have proper representation in a state like Alabama.

“If you follow the state’s argument that you need race neutrality,” she said, “you are always going to end up with something that has the impact of impairing the opportunity for Black voters to select candidates of choice.”

Faulk said America’s history of racism still affects the Black community today, which is why a race neutral approach cannot work.

“The United States is a country that is riddled by racism in its history,” she said, “and we’ve never held anyone to account for that fact, and therefore race keeps showing up and playing a role over and over again in all of our institutions, in all of our systems.

“Section 2 of the (Voting Rights Act) recognized that that was a continuing concern. It tried to focus state legislatures to examine, to evaluate, to study. And what Alabama failed to do here is that it failed to be introspective about how it line decisions would impact a particular part the states population that have been historically disenfranchised, and we are not ready to move from that problem yet.”

Faulk said racism is still a problem in parts of the Yellowhammer State.

“In Alabama there is the façade that racism no longer exists,” she said, “but it is still true that in the state of Alabama in 2022 that we haven’t elected a Black candidate to statewide office, and that can’t be just happenstance, and considering how conservative the black community is in Alabama, it’s not just about conservatism, either.”

She admitted though the Legislature probably did not discriminate purposefully in redistricting.

“Remember that Section 2 of the VRA does not focus on the intent of the legislature,” she said, “and we never claimed that this was an intentional wrongful act, but what our experts and our analysis did show is that there was a significant concern with the packing of voters into District 7 and the cracking both of Jefferson County and Montgomery County and we concluded looking at all of that analysis that it was important at this point that we stepped in with that piece of litigation.”

Yaffee is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts “The Yaffee Program” Weekdays 9-11 a.m. on WVNN. You can follow him on Twitter @Yaffee

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