Alabama Running Out of Time To Agree on New Congress Map (2)

  • State Senate, House approved different US House map revisions
  • Court won’t ‘be easily bamboozled,’ says Loyola law professor

(Updates with Senate vote in the first paragraph and law professor’s comment in the fifth paragraph.)

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Alabama’s Republican-controlled legislature passed two different congressional map revisions Wednesday, with the House and Senate disagreeing about how to comply with a court order to draw a second Black-majority district or “something quite close to it.”

A version the state House passed would alter the 2nd District so that 42.4% of the voting-age residents are Black. A different Senate-passed map would give the 2nd District a 38.3% Black voting-age population.

“I can’t say the word, but you all have basically dropped the F-bomb on the United States Supreme Court,” state Rep. Juandalynn Givan (D), a lawyer, said on state House floor.

“The plan that we’re offering today is a compact, community-of-interest plan that applies traditional redistricting principles fairly across the state,” state Sen. Steve Livingston (R), the sponsor of the Senate-passed map, said during floor debate.

Whatever the legislature ends up with will have to pass muster with a panel of federal judges. To comply with the court’s order, the new map has to provide “a real meaningful opportunity for African American voters to elect the candidate of their choice,” Justin Levitt, law professor at Loyola Law School, said in an interview.

“The judges know what they’re talking about,” he said. “This is not a three-judge court that is going to be easily bamboozled.”

If the judges reject what the lawmakers send them by Friday’s deadline, a special master and a cartographer will draw a map under the court’s supervision, probably making it harder for the GOP to maintain its 6-1 edge in Alabama’s congressional delegation.

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Marina Jenkins, executive director of the National Redistricting Foundation, said both Republican maps are “in flagrant disregard” of the court’s directive and were enacted in a “shameful process, riddled with partisan schemes deployed at the expense of Black voters’ rights.”

“Neither the House nor Senate map meet the requirement of the court’s order, or the law, and will be challenged,” Jenkins, whose foundation is an affiliate of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, said in a statement.

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Alabama is about 27% Black, and for the 2022 election, Black voting-age residents comprised a majority in just one district, the 7th, held by Rep. Terri Sewell (D).

The US Supreme Court agreed with challengers who said that map shortchanged Black voters. The state was ordered to reconfigure the districts and submit a new map for judicial review by July 21. Then plaintiffs have until July 28 to file their objections ahead of a likely Aug. 14 hearing.

‘Close To It’

Key to the outcome in Alabama — and important to the 2024 races to determine control of Congress — is whether the federal judges decide the lawmakers came close enough to a majority-Black district to comply with the Voting Rights Act. They instructed lawmakers to draw “either an additional majority-Black congressional district, or an additional district in which Black voters otherwise have an opportunity to elect a representative of their choice.”

Under the House-passed map (H.B. 5), a revised 2nd District would have favored Donald Trump for president in 2020 by a margin of 4 percentage points, according to data compiled by Dave’s Redistricting App. Under the Senate-passed map (S.B. 5), the 2nd would have backed Trump by 12 points.

In Alabama, Black voters overwhelmingly favor the Democratic Party, so the Republicans redrawing lines have had to balance maintaining their partisan edge against the potential for the judges to reject their revisions.

The case is Allen v. Milligan, 21-1086.

— With data visualization by Cordelia Gaffney.

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Giroux in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Katherine Rizzo at; Bennett Roth at

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