Listen to this article here
Alabama is primed to flip one of its congressional districts from Republican to Democrat and have a second Black-majority district after federal judges selected a new map on Thursday.
The decision comes after Republicans defied previous court orders to redraw their congressional maps that courts said diluted the representation of Black voters, in violation of federal law.
For the first time in modern history, Alabama Rep. Terri Sewell’s congressional district won’t be the only one where Black voters and Democrats have a chance to elect their candidate of choice.
“After numerous hearings, three Supreme Court rulings, and unprecedented defiance by state officials, the voters of Alabama finally have a fair congressional map,” Rep. Sewell (D-Ala.) of the state’s Seventh District said in a statement posted to X. Alabama’s Second District will now have a majority of Black voters.
New Alabama congressional district
Black residents make up a quarter of Alabama’s population. Yet, only one out of seven congressional districts currently have a majority-Black population.
The Voting Rights of Act of 1965 outlawed discrimination in voting. It also required states with a history of discrimination to get “preclearance” from the federal government before making changes to state voting laws or redistricting.
A 2013 Supreme Court case gutted the landmark law, removing the requirement for states like Alabama to get permission to alter their voting laws and congressional districts.
The result has been a flurry of new laws and redistricting, especially in Southern states, that critics argue has limited the power of Black voters.
Republicans defy court order
In June, the conservative United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that Alabama must add a second congressional district with a Black majority.
“Today’s decision confirms the basic principle that voting practices should not discriminate on account of race, but our work is not done,” President Biden said after the ruling.
Meanwhile, determined to side-step the ruling and seemingly thwart democracy, Republicans in the state legislature tried to create a new map that still wouldn’t likely produce two Black-majority districts.
They boosted Black voter percentage from 31% to 40% in a majority-White district. Yet they reduced the amount of voters in the only current Black majority district to barely 50%.
A group of voters sued, and on Thursday a three-judge panel chose a new map that undeniably grants Alabama a second Black-majority congressional district.
“Now more than ever we must restore the full protections of the Voting Rights Act,” Rep. Sewell said. “We need the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and we need it now.”
Is Louisiana next?
Now, all eyes are turning to Louisiana. Like Alabama, a judge has already ruled that Louisiana’s congressional districts violate federal law. Black voters make up a third of the state population, but the GOP-controlled legislature only established one Black-majority district out of six in total.
Also like Alabama, Republicans in Louisiana have blocked the court ruling as they hope to take it to the Supreme Court for a reversal.
With just nine more Republicans than Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, any changes to congressional maps could have widespread implications for which party takes control of Congress in 2024.