(Updates with detail from court order in the fourth paragraph, Moore statement in the 14th paragraph.)
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Democrats will be favored to win a new heavily Black congressional district and two Alabama Republicans could end up running against each other under the redistricting plan adopted Thursday by a panel of federal judges.
The new lines, which will go into effect for the 2024 election, link Mobile to Montgomery with a revised 2nd District traversing the width of the state. It would have a 48.7% Black voting-age population, up from 30.1% in the 2022 election map the judges threw out—a decision backed by the US Supreme Court.
Two-term Rep. Barry Moore (R) is immediately endangered, as the version of the 2nd District that elected him was strongly Republican. Voters in the revised district favored Joe Biden over Donald Trump by 12.5 percentage points in the 2020 presidential election.
The map, drawn by a court-appointed special master, “completely remedies the vote dilution we found and satisfies all applicable federal constitutional and statutory requirements,” the judges wrote.
It will boost the Democratic Party’s prospects for netting the five seats they’d need next year to regain control of the US House.
“The District Court’s selection of a new, fair Congressional map for Alabama is a victory for democracy and the state’s Black communities who have been denied equal representation in the House of Representatives for too long,” Rep. Suzan DelBene (Wash.), the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in a statement.
Jack Pandol, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in a statement Democrats are “suing to tilt the playing field” and Republicans “are more committed than ever to growing our majority despite Democrats’ legal end-runs around the voters who reject their extreme policies.”
In several other states, district lines for the 2024 election remain up in the air because of court challenges.
Two different cases are proceeding in Florida, including one where challengers argue that district lines pushed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) “committed intentional racial discrimination” by dismantling a Black-plurality district.
In addition, the US Supreme Court next week will hear arguments on whether South Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature predominantly focused on race, in violation of the Constitution’s equal protection clause, when it redrew the state’s 1st Congressional District.
The state is arguing that the change was made for the GOP’s advantage, not because of race.
Moore now must decide whether to retire or challenge Rep. Jerry Carl (R) in the March primary in a revised Republican-heavy 1st District.
After seeing the three map options proposed by special master Richard Allen, a former Alabama chief deputy attorney general, Carl said that he will seek re-election. Moore is weighing his options.
“Running for office is always a serious decision to make and I’m approaching this prayerfully, seeking God’s will. Above all else, I want to be obedient,” Moore said in a statement Thursday.
Carl now represents 59% of the residents drawn into the new 1st District, compared with 41% for Moore.
The remedial redistricting was put in motion by rulings that said the federal Voting Rights Act required Alabama to add a second district where candidates preferred by Black voters can consistently win elections.
The panel of three federal judges, which include two Trump appointees, ruled in January 2022 that the map Alabama’s Republican-controlled legislature drew after the 2020 census likely violated the VRA by having just one such district, Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell’s Black-majority 7th District in and around Birmingham and Selma.
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The judges ordered a new map with two districts in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority “or something quite close to it.” Alabama has a Black voting-age population of 25.9% and under the map in place in 2022, White Republicans won six seats.
State lawmakers came back with a proposed map that would have given the 2nd District a 39.9% Black voting-age population. That map was rejected, leading to the court-selected version approved Thursday.
“The State’s conduct and concession put this case in an unusual posture,” the federal judges wrote. “This Court is 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 new map maintained Sewell’s 7th District as a Black-majority Democratic stronghold. Alabama’s other four districts — now held by Republicans Mike Rogers, Robert Aderholt, Dale Strong, and Gary Palmer — would remain GOP bastions.
To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Giroux in Washington at email@example.com