Alabama Republicans refuse to create second majority-Black district | Alabama [wafact]

Alabama Republicans on Monday defended their decision not to create a second majority-Black district in a hearing before a panel of federal judges over the state’s redrawn congressional maps.

State Republicans continue to resist court orders, including from the supreme court in June, to amend the congressional maps to give Black voters increased political power and representation.

Lawyers for voters called Alabama’s plan, which maintains one majority-Black district, discriminatory. Abha Khanna, an attorney representing one group of plaintiffs in the case, said Alabama chose “defiance over compliance”.

“Alabama has chosen instead to thumb its nose at this court and to thumb its nose at the nation’s highest court and to thumb its nose at its own Black citizens,” Khanna said.

The three-judge panel, which blocked the use of the state’s old map last year, will decide whether to let Alabama’s new districts go forward or step in and draw new congressional districts for the state. The results of the extended court battle could also determine whether Democrats pick up another seat in Congress, where Republicans currently hold a slim majority.

In a surprise June decision, the supreme court upheld the panel’s earlier finding that the state’s then map – which had one Black-majority district out of seven in a state where more than one in four residents is Black – likely violated the federal Voting Rights Act.

In response to the ruling, Alabama Republicans boosted the percentage of Black voters in the majority-white second congressional district, now represented by Republican representative Barry Moore, from about 30% to 39.9%, failing to give Black voters a majority which would allow them to elect their candidate of choice.

A lawyer for the state accused plaintiffs of seeking a “racial gerrymander” over traditional guidelines for drawing districts, such as keeping districts compact and keeping communities of interest together.

“It’s unlawful to enforce proportionality over traditional redistricting principles,” Edmund LaCour, Alabama’s solicitor general, told the three-judge panel.

Alabama claims the new plan complies with the Voting Rights Act. State leaders are hoping the panel will accept their proposal or that the state will prevail in a second round of appeals to the supreme court.

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The judges did not indicate how quickly they will rule.

The high-stakes hearing drew a large number of spectators to the federal courthouse in Birmingham where an overflow room was opened to accommodate the large crowd. Plaintiffs in the supreme court case attended with many wearing T-shirts printed with their proposed map which would have two majority-Black districts.

“Alabama’s latest congressional map is a continuation of the state’s sordid history of defying court orders intended to protect the rights of Black voters,” former US attorney general Eric Holder, chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, said in a statement.

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