Alabama has officially adopted a new congressional map that aims to empower Black voters in the state and give them a greater say in their political representation.
Electing Preferred Candidates
This change provides Black voters with the opportunity to elect their preferred candidates in at least two out of seven congressional districts in the upcoming 2024 elections. The shift in political representation may also have significant implications for the balance of power in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Under the previous congressional map, Black voters, who constitute about a quarter of Alabama’s population, had a majority in only one of the state’s seven congressional districts. The new map, selected by a three-judge panel, seeks to rectify this imbalance.
It maintains a majority of Black voters in one district and creates a second district where Black voters make up 48.7% of the population. This percentage is deemed sufficient to allow Black voters in the district to have a say in electing their preferred candidate.
The Importance of Representation
The judges’ decision is grounded in the principle of fair representation, as outlined in the Voting Rights Act. In this Act, the need for increasing Black voters’ power in the state is explained while closely adhering to Alabama’s legislature’s 2023 plan.
The Act stated, “Under the Voting Rights Act and binding precedent, the appropriate remedy for racially discriminatory vote dilution is… a congressional districting plan that includes either an additional majority-Black district or an additional district in which Black voters otherwise have an opportunity to elect a representative of their choice.”
Alabama’s voting patterns are characterized by racial polarization, with Black voters predominantly supporting Democrats and white voters leaning toward Republicans.
Therefore, any district allowing Black voters to choose their preferred candidates is likely to favor the Democratic party, an important factor to consider when Republicans currently hold a narrow 221–212 advantage in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Alabama’s Secretary of State, Wes Allen, a Republican, acknowledged the court’s ruling and stated that the state would comply with the new map for the 2024 election cycle. Allen said Alabama will “facilitate the 2024 election cycle in accordance with the map the federal court has forced upon Alabama and ordered us to use.”
This comes after a series of legal battles in which Alabama Republicans resisted the creation of an additional opportunity district for Black voters. Their previous attempts were deemed insufficient, leading to the court’s intervention.
The case is considered a significant victory for Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination in voting practices. Conservatives have often worked against this law by trying to make it more difficult to prove racial discrimination toward voters.
A Conservative Majority
The fact that this congressional map change was passed when there is a conservative majority in the U.S. Supreme Court, shows that Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act has not been forgotten yet.
However, similar legal battles are ongoing in other states, including Louisiana and Georgia, which could result in the creation of additional opportunity districts for Black voters and potentially increase Democratic power in these states.
Eric Holder’s Perspective
Former Attorney General Eric Holder, whose non-profit supported some of the plaintiffs in this case, hailed the decision as a triumph for justice.
Holder said, “In spite of the shameful intransigence of Alabama Republicans, justice has finally prevailed in the state. With this new, fairer map, and for the first time ever, Black voters in Alabama could have two members of Congress representing their interests at the same time. This historic development will strengthen voting rights and ensure equal representation for so many Americans.”
Holder also issued a warning to other states facing Section 2 cases. He said, “Other states with pending Section 2 cases should view this map, and this process, as both an example of basic fairness and a warning that denying equal representation to Black voters, violating the Voting Rights Act, and defying federal court orders is a direct tie to an odious past and will no longer be tolerated.”
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