Federal Court Blocks Alabama Congressional Map After Republican Lawmakers Defied U.S. Supreme Court

UPDATE: On Sept. 5, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall’s (R) office indicated that Alabama will appeal this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Tuesday, Sept. 5, a federal court blocked the implementation of Alabama’s new congressional map — enacted by the state’s Republican governor and passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature — that does not have a second majority-Black district. A court-appointed special master will now draw Alabama’s congressional map for the 2024 election cycle. 

In today’s order, the court found that the Republican-backed plan “perpetuates rather than corrects the Section Two violation we found.” The now-blocked plan has a Black voting age population of 39.93% in the state’s 2nd Congressional District and 50.65% in the 7th Congressional District, thereby clearly lacking a second district that would allow Black voters to have the opportunity to elect the candidate of their choice. 

This victory for Alabama voters comes after almost two full years of litigation. In November 2021, two lawsuits were filed on behalf of voters and pro-voting organizations alleging that Alabama’s congressional map violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). A district court blocked the map and ordered the creation of a new map with two majority-Black districts. 

The district court’s 2022 order stated that “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.” Today, a three judge panel — composed of two Trump appointees and one Reagan appointee — agreed and held that the map enacted by the Republican-controlled Legislature “falls short of this required remedy” and “does not completely remedy the likely Section Two violation that we found and the Supreme Court affirmed” on June 8, 2023 in its landmark Allen v. Milligan ruling.

In its June opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Section 2 of the VRA and affirmed the district court’s decision that blocked Alabama’s congressional map for likely violating the VRA and ordered a new plan with the inclusion of a second majority-Black district. 

Shortly after the Court’s ruling, the plaintiffs in the case provided the Legislature with a map that contains the two required majority-Black districts entitled the VRA Plaintiffs’ Plan, but the plan ultimately did not make it out of the Republican-controlled Legislature. Public hearings were held, but Republicans never introduced their plans during these public meetings. Instead, Republicans finally introduced their plans on the first day of the Alabama Legislature’s special session and ultimately passed a new plan “along racial lines (with the exception of one Black member of the house).” 

In July, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) signed the new congressional map into law in blatant defiance of the federal court order, justifying the action with: “The Legislature knows our state, our people and our districts better than the federal courts or activist groups.” 

In response to Republican officials’ open defiance of a court order the court wrote:

We are disturbed by the evidence that the State delayed remedial proceedings but ultimately did not even nurture the ambition to provide the required remedy. And we are struck by the extraordinary circumstance we face. We are not aware of any other case in which a state legislature — faced with a federal court order declaring that its electoral plan unlawfully dilutes minority votes and requiring a plan that provides an additional opportunity district — responded with a plan that the state concedes does not provide that district.

The opinion concludes: “The law requires the creation of an additional district that affords Black Alabamians, like everyone else, a fair and reasonable opportunity to elect candidates of their choice. The 2023 Plan plainly fails to do so.” 

As a result, the court directed a court-appointed special master to begin working on a new congressional map for the 2024 election cycle. This decision is a long-fought victory for Black voters in Alabama who are now one step closer to having a congressional map that gives Black voters the opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice. 

Read the order here. 

Learn more about the case here.