Supreme Court rejects Alabama GOP redistricting appeal, clearing way for Dem pickup

The Supreme Court on Tuesday handed down a win to Democrats by rejecting Alabama’s request to stop a court-driven mapmaking process that will likely result in an additional Black — and Democratic — member of Congress.

A lower federal court ruled earlier this month that the state’s new map likely violated the Voting Rights Act after the Republican-controlled state legislature essentially ignored its order to draw two majority-Black House districts. Alabama appealed that decision.

But the Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected Alabama’s request to step in and block the ruling, leaving intact the decision forcing the map to be redrawn.

On Monday, a court-appointed special master narrowed the list to three proposals, each of which would create a second majority- or near-majority-Black district, with further hearings scheduled for next week.

The lower-court three-judge panel had written that it was “deeply troubled” that lawmakers hadn’t drawn two majority-Black districts out of the state’s seven House seats.

The same court ruled last year that the state should draw a second majority-Black district, or something close to it, to comply with the Voting Rights Act. The Supreme Court affirmed that ruling earlier this year, voiding the map Alabama used to conduct the 2022 elections.

Tuesday’s ruling is part of a bigger legal fight over redistricting that could help decide who controls the House after next year’s election. Broader redistricting efforts could not only give Democrats a slight edge in their bid to reclaim the majority they lost in 2022 but also increase the number of Black members in their conference thanks to similar claims in other GOP-controlled Southern states.

Drawing a second majority-Black district in Alabama would likely lead to a second Democrat being elected. Currently, the state has only one Democrat — Rep. Terri Sewell — coming from the state’s only majority-Black district.

Earlier this year, Alabama Republicans declined to draw a new map with two majority-Black districts and instead drew a map with just one majority-Black district. Alabama Republicans argued that they were complying with the law, saying the challengers did not prove the new maps violated the Voting Rights Act and that they were not compelled to draw a second majority-Black district despite the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“The State and its voters should be allowed this Court’s review before voters are sorted into race-based districts flouting all conceivable districting principles in search of super-proportionality,” Alabama officials said in the appeal.

State officials have said that a new congressional map needs to be in place by October, with primary elections scheduled for early March 2024.

Zach Montellaro contributed to this report.

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