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Alabama GOP governor approves congressional map with just one majority-Black district despite court order

<i>Julie Bennett/Bloomberg/Getty Images</i><br/>Alabama’s Republican-controlled legislature gave final passage July 21 to a new congressional map with just one majority-Black district
Julie Bennett/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Alabama’s Republican-controlled legislature gave final passage July 21 to a new congressional map with just one majority-Black district

By Dianne Gallagher, CNN

(CNN) — Alabama GOP Gov. Kay Ivey on Friday approved a new congressional map with just one majority-Black district, despite a court order calling for the redrawn lines to create two majority-Black districts or “something quite close to it.”

The state’s Republican-controlled legislature gave final passage to the remedial map earlier Friday, just hours before the court-imposed deadline. The map must now be approved by a federal court, which has set a hearing for mid-August.

“The Legislature knows our state, our people and our districts better than the federal courts or activist groups, and I am pleased that they answered the call, remained focused and produced new districts ahead of the court deadline,” Ivey said in a statement after she signed off on the map.

With no Democrats voting in favor, the legislature passed a remedial map that includes one congressional district that has around 50% Black voting age population and a second district with roughly 40%.

The “Livingston 3” map came as the result of a Friday afternoon conference committee, called a “compromise” by Republican leadership though no Democrats supported it, after the two chambers had only approved their own, different versions.

District 7, currently represented by Democratic Congresswoman Terri Sewell, would remain the only majority-Black congressional district in Alabama; however, the new map actually reduces the Black voting age population in District 7 from 55.6% to 50.65%, according to data from the legislature.

The provided data shows the Black voting age population for the proposed District 2 in the southeastern part of the state would increase the Black voting age population, but only to 39.93%.

Democrats blasted Republicans for ignoring a directive from a three judge panel that specified “any remedial plan will need to include two districts in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it.”

“There was never any intent in this building to comply with their court order,” said state Rep. Chris England, a Tuscaloosa Democrat, on Friday.

Much of the special session consisted of argument over what terms included in the directive, like “quite close” and “opportunity,” actually meant.

Last month, the US Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling in the Allen v. Milligan case that found Alabama’s current congressional map likely violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

After the 2020 census, Alabama enacted a congressional map that included just one Black majority district out of the state’s seven districts despite the fact that Black voters constitute 27% of the state’s population.

The map was invalidated when a three judge federal district court – including two Trump nominees – tackled a massive factual record over seven days of testimony and concluded that the plan likely violated the Voting Rights Act because Black voters have “less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress.”

The court pointed to the state’s history of discrimination and noted that the proposed plans put forward by the plaintiffs showing that a second majority-Black district could be drawn.

The court directive said Alabama should redraw its map to better give Black voters an opportunity to elect the candidate of their choice.

“One plus one, equals two. One plus zero, equals one. It’s simple math,” said Democratic state Rep. Juandalynn Givan, of Birmingham, as she held up a sign on the floor Friday that read: “1+1=2, 1+0=1.”

Republican House Speaker Pro Tempore Chris Pringle, co-chair of the redistricting committee, said throughout the week he was prioritizing maps that were “compact and contiguous” but avoided “racial gerrymanders” that he said would violate the state constitution. Pringle said he believed the redrawn lines would provide opportunity for minority voters to elect a representative of their choice in two districts – though voting rights advocates have said models using the three map version finalists do not support that assertion.

State GOP lawmakers acknowledged interest in the remedial map drawing process from Republicans in Washington, DC, like House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California and Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville.

“The journey to finish off the Voting Rights Act through Alabama continues,” England said as he spoke on the floor Friday – just before the state House voted to concur – about his belief that Republicans intentionally designed the remedial map as a vehicle to get back before the US Supreme Court. “I am putting my hopes in the federal courts system and hopefully they will save Alabama from themselves.”

The civil rights groups and individuals who challenged the current map have promised to fight the new version as well. They have until July 28 to submit their objections, and the state can then issue its response before August 4. Then, federal judges will hold a hearing on August 14 to consider them. There is a possibility the panel could reject the map and appoint a special master to draw a new one, if the judges determine the legislature’s map does not comply with the order.

The plaintiffs in Allen v. Milligan released a statement Friday, saying in part, “Let’s be clear: The Alabama Legislature believes it is above the law. What we are dealing with is a group of lawmakers who are blatantly disregarding not just the Voting Rights Act, but a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court and a court order from the three-judge district court. Even worse, they continue to ignore constituents’ pleas to ensure the map is fair and instead remain determined to rob Black voters of the representation we deserve. We won’t let that happen.”

This story and headline have been updated with additional reporting.

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