Republican lawmakers in Alabama chose Friday to increase the percentage of Black voters — from 31% to 40% — in the state’s second district rather than creating a Black majority following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
The court recently upheld a lower court ruling from a three-judge panel that said the state must create a second majority-Black district or ‘something quite close to it’ so that Black voters ‘have an opportunity to elect a representative of their choice.’
Alabama only has one majority-Black district out of seven, while Black people make up 27% of the state.
Republicans argued that the new district map complies with the order because it increases Black influence.
ALABAMA REPUBLICANS’ REDISTRICTING PROPOSAL IS AN INSULT XTO THE SUPREME COURT, BLACK LAWMAKERS SAY
‘We also took into consideration not racially gerrymandering our maps,’ Republican House Speaker Pro Tempore Chris Pringle said.
But critics said it invoked the history of Jim Crow laws meant to suppress the Black vote.
‘There’s no opportunity there for anybody other than a White Republican to win that district,’ Democratic state Sen. Rodger Smitherman, said. ‘It will never, ever elect a Democrat. They won’t elect a Black. They won’t elect a minority.’
Gov. Kay Ivey signed the bill late Friday.
Last year, the panel ruled that the state’s legislative map likely violated the Voting Rights Act, which the Supreme Court upheld.
‘Let’s be clear: The Alabama Legislature believes it is above the law,’ the plaintiffs who won the Supreme Court case — and who have vowed to continue to fight if the map is passed — said. ‘What we are dealing with is a group of lawmakers who are blatantly disregarding not just the Voting Rights Act, but a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court and a court order from the three-judge district court.’
SUPREME COURT LIFTS PAUSE ON LOUISIANA REDISTRICTING CASE THAT COULD BOOST BLACK VOTING POWER
Smitherman said he believes state Republicans are hoping the Supreme Court will vote in favor of the state in the next round. The court narrowly voted 5-4 against the state.
‘I have people in my district saying their vote doesn’t count, and I understand why they say that,’ state Democratic Rep. Thomas Jackson said during debate Friday. ‘The person they want to elect can never get elected because they are in the minority all the time.’
A leading GOP lawmaker said the Senate proposal places heavier emphasis on a district’s shape and keeping communities together than on racial composition.
‘How do we keep those communities together, how do they wind up being recognized as communities of interest? That’s a big decision,’ Republican Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Reed.
The debate in Alabama is being closely watched across the nation, and could be mirrored in fights in Louisiana, Georgia, Texas and other states.