When we look at the ongoing fight for voting rights, rightfully, the focus is placed on anti-voting legislation that limits early voting or closes down a bunch of polling places. Gerrymandering is also a big issue–depending on how states like New York or Florida redraw their maps, it could determine what party gains control of the House in the upcoming 2022 midterm elections.
Black people account for one-quarter of the population of Alabama. A proposed map drawn by Alabama Republicans would have created just one majority-Black district out of the state’s seven congressional districts. According to MSNBC, a three-judge panel blocked the congressional map on Monday because “Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress.”
A new map due by February 11 should include “two districts in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it.” This ruling resulted from a lawsuit filed last November on behalf of Greater Birmingham Ministries, Alabama State Conference of the NAACP, and several individuals represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and others.
As an ACLU statement points out, “this is the first redistricting cycle since the enactment of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 without preclearance.” Meaning if parts of the VRA were left untouched by the Supreme Court, states like Alabama would need to get their maps approved by a federal court or the U.S. Department of Justice.
U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, the only Black representative in the Alabama delegation, spoke about the ruling from NPR:
“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,” Sewell added.
Former US Attorney General Eric Holder was also relieved, as shown in a statement Monday night according to CNN:
“This decision is a win for Alabama’s black voters, who have been denied equal representation for far too long,” former US Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement Monday evening released by the National Redistricting Foundation, which it said had supported the plaintiffs in the case before the district judge.
The Alabama Republican lawmakers will most definitely appeal the decision. State Attorney General Steve Marshall says he plans to petition the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.