WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, several Alabama voters sued over the state’s new congressional map signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey (R) earlier on Thursday. The lawsuit, Caster v. Merrill, argues that the new map intentionally dilutes the voting strength of Black Alabamians by only creating one majority-Black district when a second one could also be drawn. The plaintiffs, all Black voters, argue that the configuration of the state’s new congressional districts “pack” and “crack” Black voters in order to dilute their voting power in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), which prohibits any law that is intended to or results in the “denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.” The lawsuit asks the court to declare the recently passed map invalid and order the creation of a new map that includes a second majority-minority congressional district.
The complaint details Alabama’s long history of racial discrimination, which includes suppressing Black voters from accessing the ballot box through literacy tests and poll taxes to purposefully drawing district lines to spread out Black voters and thereby reduce their voting power. Tying this history to the present day, the plaintiffs point out that Alabama’s Black population is significantly underrepresented in the new congressional configuration: “while Black Alabamians now compose more than 27 percent of the state’s population and nearly 26 percent of the state’s voting age population, they have the opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice in just one out of seven districts.” The plaintiffs argue that the state Legislature “packed” Black voters into the 7th Congressional District, while “cracking” (spreading out) Black voters among three surrounding districts, “despite—or perhaps because of—the fact that the Black population in these districts is sufficiently numerous and geographically compact to form a majority of the voting age population in a second district.” The plaintiffs also highlight the prevalence of racially polarized voting in Alabama, meaning that Black Alabamians vote cohesively as a block and overwhelmingly support Democrats while white Alabamians vote cohesively in support of Republicans and “historically vote as a bloc to defeat Black voters’ candidates of choice.” The plaintiffs cite this voting behavior as another reason that a second majority-Black district needs to be drawn in order to bolster Black voting strength and allow Black voters to elect their candidate of choice.