Race, Voter Fight Returns to Alabama Court: Ballots & Boundaries

Bloomberg Government subscribers get the stories like this first. Act now and gain unlimited access to everything you need to know. Learn more.

All of next week’s been blocked off in a Birmingham courtroom for high-stakes arguments about race, politics, and the future shape of Alabama’s congressional districts.

You’ll recall that three federal judges ordered the state legislature to give Black voters a greater chance to elect the US House members of their choice. The Republican-drawn map they came back with raised the Black voting-age population in the 2nd Congressional District to about 40%, and plaintiffs are arguing that’s not enough.

Joe Biden, overwhelmingly backed by Black Alabama voters in the 2020 presidential election, would have lost in the proposed 2nd District by 9 percentage points to Donald Trump.

Republicans say their map maintains communities of interest in Alabama’s Black Belt, Gulf Coast, and Wiregrass regions, and they accuse the opposition of being too party-conscious. “Their objections boil down to one thing: the Legislature didn’t do enough to prioritize race over neutral principles and thereby ensure that Democrats can reliably win in at least two congressional districts in Alabama,” according to an Aug. 4 filing.

The plaintiffs’ perspective: “The Legislature’s task was clear: it must provide Black voters in Alabama the opportunity to elect their preferred candidates in two congressional districts. It has failed,” a July 28 filing said.

Republicans control 222 House seats. Rep. Barry Moore (R), who represents Alabama’s current 2nd District, was quoted saying at a state party meeting that Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) “knows that I am one-fourth of his majority in Washington, D.C., so that is huge for the nation.” — Greg Giroux

NEW YORK: November arguments
New York’s highest court plans to hear arguments this fall in a Republican appeal of a decision directing the state’s independent redistricting commission to submit a new congressional map to the Democratic-majority legislature.

“It is anticipated that the appeal will be calendared for argument during the November session,” Lisa LeCours, chief clerk and legal counsel to the New York Court of Appeals, said in an Aug. 8 letter to lawyers involved in the case, Hoffman v. IRC. — Greg Giroux

(The next edition of B&B will be published Aug. 25; plenty of time to SUBSCRIBE if you normally wait for a friend to forward.)

It’s deadline day for civil rights groups to submit a US Supreme Court brief in a case alleging that lawmakers in South Carolina reconfigured the state’s most competitive district to be an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.

Oral arguments are scheduled for Oct. 11 in Alexander v. South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, a Republican appeal of a ruling that “race was the predominant factor” in the GOP legislature’s design of the Charleston-area 1st District held by Rep. Nancy Mace (R). The argument on the other side is that the new lines were about helping Mace, not hurting Black voters. — Greg Giroux

Tennessee civil rights groups are asking a federal court to declare the state’s Republican-drawn congressional map an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.

Plaintiffs allege in Tennessee State Conference of the NAACP v. Lee that the splintering of a heavily Democratic county into three districts amounted to “impermissible intentional vote dilution.”

Davidson County, where people of color are more than 40% of the population, had been wholly in the 5th District of Democrat Jim Cooper, who was repeatedly re-elected by a coalition of White, Black and Latino Nashvillians. He didn’t seek re-election after redistricting and Republican Andy Ogles succeeded him. — Greg Giroux

OHIO: Watch This Space
After an abortion-focused campaign killed an effort to make it harder to amend Ohio’s constitution, those on both sides started focusing on their strategy for a November ballot question.

First, though, the state Supreme Court has to rule whether the abortion-rights proposal qualifies for the ballot. Challengers argue it should be pulled because it doesn’t include the text of all existing laws it would change. The justices’ decision is constitutionally due by Monday. READ MORE from Eric Heisig.

CALIFORNIA: Back for More
It was the second-closest 2022 US House race (after Rep. Lauren Boebert’s victory in Colorado). Now the vanquished Democrat is back for more in California. Former Assemblyman Adam Gray (D) is trying again for the seat of Rep. John Duarte (R), who won by four-tenths of one percentage point.

Gray formally announced and said he plans to draw contrasts on Social Security, Medicare, abortion, and Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s management of the House Republican majority. McCarthy represents an adjacent district.

Democrats hope California’s Hispanic-majority 13th District votes more like it did in 2020, when Joe Biden won it by 11 percentage points. In 2022, Republican nominees for governor and senator carried the district. — Greg Giroux

See also: GOP Freshman and Farmer Takes on Agriculture, Immigration Policy


Add Us to Your Inbox

SIGN UP for Ballots & Boundaries to keep up with redistricting, congressional campaign trends, and more. The next edition is Aug. 25.

To contact the reporters on this story: Greg Giroux in Washington at ggiroux@bgov.com; Eric Heisig in Ohio at eheisig@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Katherine Rizzo at krizzo@bgov.com; Robin Meszoly at rmeszoly@bgov.com

Stay informed with more news like this – from the largest team of reporters on Capitol Hill – subscribe to Bloomberg Government today. Learn more.