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The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear Alabama’s latest appeal in the gerrymandering case in which the state failed to follow court orders to create a district in which Black residents would be the majority.
The justices denied Alabama’s emergency request without comment in an unsigned order Tuesday, thereby clearing the final hurdle before court-appointed experts begin the process of finalizing new maps that include a second majority-Black district in the Yellowhammer State.
The Court’s refusal to hear Alabama’s latest appeal comes after the state’s unusually blatant failure to follow court orders that it redraw its congressional districting maps. After the 2020 census, Alabama tried to adopt a new map which packed one-third of the state’s Black voters into a single congressional district while spreading the remaining Black voters across three congressional districts. The plan would essentially mean that only one of the state’s seven congressional districts had a chance of electing a Black representative, despite the state having a roughly 27% Black population.
When the proposed map was challenged in court, both the lower court and the Supreme Court ruled that Alabama’s plan would violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), which bans racial discrimination in voting. In his majority opinion in June, Chief Justice John Roberts took particular issue with Alabama’s repeated efforts to minimize the voting power of Black individuals and slammed the state for its “extensive history of repugnant racial and voting-related discrimination,” which Roberts called “undeniable and well documented.”
Following the ruling, Alabama was expected to redraw its maps to include a second majority-Black district or “something quite close to it,” but it simply failed to do so.
In early September, the case came before the same panel of federal judges — two Donald Trump appointees and one Bill Clinton appointee — who initially ruled against the map. The judges appeared stunned that Alabama chose not to redraw its map, but instead to re-submit a map that still lacked a new majority-Black district.
The judges said they were “deeply troubled” and “disturbed” by the fact that Alabama “ultimately did not even nurture the ambition to provide the required remedy.” The panel went on to say it was not aware of any other case in which a state legislature was found to have diluted minority votes and then simply ignored the court-ordered remedy.
To underscore its point, the court refused to give the Alabama legislature another chance to draw its map and instead directed a special master and a cartographer to work on a new map. Richard Allen, the special master, proposed three remedial maps Monday, each of which would create the required “opportunity district” for Black voters.
Despite being called out for failure to meet its court-ordered obligations, Alabama filed an emergency appeal with the Supreme Court on Sept. 11. In its petition, the state argued that a second majority-Black district had not actually been required and that the Court’s recent decision striking down affirmative action programs in university admissions supported Alabama’s position. The justices obviously disagreed and refused to step in.
In a pair of unsigned orders, the justices turned down Alabama’s request to be heard once more. No dissents were published in the case.
The case, which involves race-based gerrymandering, is just one of several times Alabama has come under fire for diluting votes. In 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic raged, the state banned curbside voting for people with disabilities and required absentee voters to have their ballots notarized or witnessed. Four years earlier, Alabama faced a separate lawsuit over its refusal to allow certain felons to vote.
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