SCOTUS stands firm on fair redistricting, rejects Alabama’s plea to delay new Congressional map

Published 9:14 am Friday, September 29, 2023

Special to the Advance

Grassroots organizers are rallying behind the special master’s proposed Congressional maps and are applauding SCOTUS’s rejection of Alabama’s defiance to federal court orders to redraw electoral maps that violated the Voting Rights Act.

On Tuesday, Sept. 26, the Supreme Court rejected Alabama’s plea to delay implementation of a new Congressional map.

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In a Tuesday decision, the justices declined to halt the lower court’s process of creating a new map, which included the establishment of two districts where Black voters constitute a majority or a significant portion of the population. State legislators blatantly defied the order that came after SCOTUS agreed in June that the state violated Section 2 of the VRA for failing to draw two majority-black districts.

The Court’s response, provided in an unsigned order, reads, “The application for stay presented to Justice Thomas and by him referred to the Court is denied.”

The Court did not provide a specific explanation for its decision and there were no recorded dissents among the justices.

“In Alabama, where the fight for voting rights is deeply rooted in our history, the court’s decision marks a significant step toward justice and fairness. Alabama Values has played a critical role in keeping the public engaged and informed in this ongoing battle for equitable representation,” said Anneshia Hardy, executive director of Alabama Values. “As a grassroots communications organization, we’ve worked to amplify the voices and efforts of communities and organizations in the fight for fair maps, pulling together the collective power of the people. The Supreme Court’s rejection of Alabama’s plea is not just a victory for Black Alabamians but for the principles of democracy and equal representation. It highlights the essential truth that Black voting power is not a request, but a right. As we move forward, Alabama Values will continue to stand with the people of Alabama, ensuring their voices are heard loud and clear in the decision-making halls. The fight for fair maps and equal representation continues, and as a collective, we will win.”

The state of Alabama had attempted to stop the new maps that were to be drawn by a special master from being implemented because they believed they could get another chance to convince justices to take their side and tear down the Voting Rights Act.

“Today is the day when true accountability meets justice,” said Rodreshia Russaw, executive director of The Ordinary People Society. “As citizens and taxpayers of this state, Black Alabamians should have a voice at every table when our legislature continues to make decisions that directly impact vulnerable communities. As grassroots organizers, it is our duty to ensure that we represent and advocate for fair, equitable maps that allow black voters to vote for candidates of our choice. The fight doesn’t stop here, with a General Election year coming up, we must get voters to the polls so they can continue to exercise their rights.”

Greater Birmingham Ministries, which is one of the organization plaintiffs in the Allen v. Milligan case, was happy to see SCOTUS’s decision on Tuesday.

“The Alabama officials thought they were spitting in the face of the U.S. Supreme Court only to find out they were spitting into the wind,” said Scott Douglas, GBM executive director. “The only thing I can think of that would make the officials and the legislative supermajority so obstinate is that they were conniving for an encore of Shelby vs. Holder and to weaken Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act as the Shelby decision weakened Section 5.”

Dr. Adia Winfrey, founder of Transform Alabama called the SCOTUS decision extremely encouraging.

“Alabama’s 21st Century redistricting fight has shown how the branches of government can work as a checks and balances system,” she said. “Transform Alabama is excited to continue our political education work around understanding redistricting and the importance of civic engagement through the new map.”

SCOTUS’s decision follows Monday’s submission of three options by the special master appointed by the three-judge federal panel after the state of Alabama failed to comply with federal orders to draw a Congressional map that included two majority Black districts.

The state had created a map in July that was effectively worse than the 2021 map that was struck down by SCOTUS in June.

The maps proposed by special master Richard Allen sought to establish two congressional districts: the 2nd Congressional District in southeastern Alabama’s Wiregrass region and a 7th Congressional District encompassing much of Alabama’s Black Belt, as well as a significant portion of Birmingham.

The three maps have notably higher Black Voting Age Populations (BVAP) compared to the maps approved by the Alabama Legislature in both 2021 and July 2023.

In two of the proposed maps, the BVAP in the 2nd Congressional District is 48.5% and 48.7%, while in a third, it exceeds 50.1%. Meanwhile, the proposed plans for the 7th congressional district feature BVAPs ranging from 51.9% to 52.8%.

“When it comes to the proposed maps, I’m happy to see that Remedial Plan 1 closely resembles the plaintiff’s VRA,” said plaintiff Shalela Dowdy. “I’m also pleased to see that all three proposed maps include the city of Mobile which is the biggest majority Black city in the Southern region of the state. It was great to see SCOTUS stand firm in their decisions to once again let the state of Alabama know that they are once again violating the rights of Black voters in the state. It’s a shame to know that if their efforts to blindly fight back, they are willingly wasting the money of taxpayers.”

Sen. Vivian Figures, who carried the bill that introduced the plaintiff’s VRA map supports the maps presented by the special master.

“I think each of the maps presents a strong opportunity for minority voices in Alabama to matter in congressional elections,” she said. “I am confident the court will consider all relevant factors and do what the legislature has so boldly refused to do: create a constitutional and VRA-compliant district that does not limit or water down the voices of Black Alabamians.”

Plaintiff Letetia Jackson was ecstatic Tuesday morning when she heard of SCOTUS’s decision calling Alabama’s decision to redraw the maps the way they did “defiance and total disregard for the voting rights and civil rights of Black Alabamians, has a long sordid history in Alabama.  It is reminiscent of former Governor George Wallace standing in the doors of the University of Alabama to deny Black students an opportunity for an education from that prestigious institution. We were not deterred then and we will not be deterred now. We will continue to fight for our voting power and we will win this fight.”

Greater Birmingham Ministries also supports the maps from the special master.

“I deeply support the three maps presented by the Special Master,” said Douglas. “While the first map most closely resembles the map submitted by the VRA Plaintiffs, of course, GBM is one, all three maps demonstrate that two congressional districts can be fairly drawn in which Black voters of Alabama can elect congressional representatives of their choice.”

A hearing on the map plans that will be created by the special master has been set for Oct. 3, 2023, at the Hugo L. Black United States Courthouse in Birmingham.

“As a dedicated organizer on the frontlines, I’ve witnessed the resilience and determination of Alabamians who have tirelessly worked to empower their communities through the ballot box,” said Faith & Works founder Cara McClure. “Our hope for a fair and representative map during the Oct. 3 hearing is rooted in the belief that every voice should be heard, and every vote should count. We have seen firsthand the power of unity, and we trust that the maps drawn by the special master will accurately reflect the diversity and aspirations of our state. Our pursuit of a just and equitable democracy continues, and we stand together, unwavering in our commitment to ensuring that every Alabamian has a fair chance to be represented.”