MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A court-appointed special master on Monday submitted three proposals for new congressional districts in Alabama as federal judges oversee the drawing of new lines to provide greater representation for Black voters.
The three proposals all create a second district where Black voters comprise a majority of the voting age population or close to it — something that state lawmakers refused to do when they drew lines this summer. Richard Allen, the court-appointed special master, wrote that all three proposals follow the court's instruction to create a second district in the state where Black voters have an opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice.
A three-judge panel is overseeing the drawing of new lines after ruling that Alabama lawmakers ignored their finding that the state — which is 27% Black — should have more than one district with a substantial percentage of Black voters. Alabama has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to put the redraw on hold as the state appeals, but the justices have yet to rule on the request.
The three-judge panel has tentatively scheduled an Oct. 3 hearing on the special master's proposed plans.
Kareem Crayton, a redistricting expert at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, which filed an earlier brief supporting plaintiffs who challenged Alabama's previous map, said the proposals “show a serious consideration of the need to remedy the violation found by the court.”
“There will be more to review as we get access to the block files supporting these recommended maps, but what’s clear is that the Special Master did what the state had to date simply refused to do: take the directives of the local court seriously. Each proposal appears to create two districts that are either majority Black or close to it," Crayton said.
The three proposals, submitted by the court-appointed special master would alter the boundaries of Congressional District 2 so that Black voters comprise between 48.5% to 50.1% of the voting-age population. By contrast, the district drafted by GOP lawmakers had a Black voting-age population of 39.9%, meaning it would continue to elect mostly white Republicans.
However, Allen wrote that the lines were not drawn on the basis of race and did not target a particular Black population percentage in any district. But he said the proposals follow the court's directive that the state should have an additional district in which Black voters “have an opportunity to elect a representative of their choice."
“A performance analysis in this case should demonstrate that the Black-preferred candidate often would win an election in the subject district,” Allen wrote. The filing said that candidates preferred by Black voters would have won between 13 and 16 of 17 recent elections. Allen is a former chief deputy for several previous Republican Alabama attorney generals.
The three-judge panel had ruled that Alabama's 2021 plan — that had one majority-Black district out of seven in a state where 27% of residents are Black — likely violated the U.S. Voting Rights Act. The U.S. Supreme Court in June upheld the panel’s finding, leading lawmakers to draw new lines.
The Republican-controlled Alabama Legislature, which has been reluctant to create a Democratic-leaning district, in July adopted a new map that maintained a single Black district. The three-judge panel wrote that they were “deeply troubled” by the state’s defiance, blocked use of the new map and directed a special master to submit proposed new maps.