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Alabama congressional map blocked by federal court; Legislature ordered to draw additional black opportunity district

A three-judge federal panel on Monday ruled that Alabama’s refreshed congressional district map likely stands in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

The Alabama Legislature in November finalized its decennial redistricting process to reflect the state’s updated census statistics. Democratic lawmakers raised objections to the newly-drawn congressional district map, arguing that it did not fairly reflect the state’s black population.

Republicans, however, insisted that race was not a politically motivated factor in redrawing district lines.

The state’s congressional map was swiftly met with three separate lawsuits which were later consolidated before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.

The three-judge panel ruled that the lawsuit’s plaintiffs were “substantially likely” to successfully argue that the congressional map violated Section Two of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits the manipulation of congressional district lines to the detriment of minority voting power.

As currently drawn, Alabama’s seventh congressional district is the only minority-majority district. Presently, black citizens currently make up 27% of the state’s population.

The court ruled that the plaintiffs were likely to prevail in arguing that black citizens “are sufficiently numerous to constitute a voting-age majority in a second congressional district.” Additionally, the judges found that voting-age black citizens “have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress.”

The appropriate remedy, according to the court, would be for the legislature to redraw its congressional map to include an additional black-majority district or a district that enables black voters to “otherwise have an opportunity to elect a representative of their choice.”

The 225-page ruling can be seen here.

U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham), who represents Alabama’s only black-majority congressional district, praised the court’s decision and conveyed her intentions to coordinate with the Republican-led legislature to comply with the ruling.

“Monumental news from the court! Increasing political representation of Black Alabamians is exactly what John Lewis and the Foot Soldiers who marched across the bridge in my hometown of Selma fought for,” stated Sewell. “It is the reason why I am the lead sponsor of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and have led efforts to get it signed into law. I am carefully reviewing the opinion and I look forward to working with the Alabama Legislature to fulfill the court’s mandate.”

The State of Alabama is expected to appeal the court’s decision.

Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL

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