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Breaking: State readying for July special session on congressional maps

Alabama state leaders are looking at a July special session of the Legislature to redraw the state’s congressional districts.

“If the special session runs from July 17 through July 21, there will be time for the Reapportionment Committee to receive public input regarding the plan and then propose it to legislators for review before a vote,” Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a filing Thursday in U.S. District Court.

“Moreover, if the new plan is enacted by July 21, Plaintiffs will have more time to consider whether they will challenge it than if the parties instead had a trial on July 31 followed by a finding of liability and the enactment of a new plan in late August or early September,” Marshall wrote. “Accordingly, defendants ask that the Legislature be given until July 21 to enact a new plan.”

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the map lawmakers approved in 2021 violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It was the latest development in a lawsuit that alleged Alabama’s congressional maps were discriminatory, as just one of the state’s seven congressional districts is majority black, despite 27% of the state’s population being black.  

Lawmakers are now charged with adopting “a congressional redistricting plan that includes either an additional majority-Black congressional district or an additional district in which Black voters otherwise have an opportunity to elect a representative of their choice.”

The Associated Press reported that judges Friday morning indicated they’d give the state until July 21 to approve a new map.

“The time constraints struck the court as very real and very immediate,” U.S. Circuit Judge Stanley Marcus said during a status conference in the case.

If the court finds that the Legislature’s new plan fails to meet that requirement, the court could then adopt its own map.

Rep. Chris Pringle, R-Mobile, House chair of the reapportionment committee, said Friday he’s working toward the July 17 special session date. He said there are tentative plans forming for a public hearing or hearings on a possible new map for the week of June 25.

“We’ll talk about the maps and let people have input,” Pringle said. “We have to move fast, but we want people to be able to come in and talk to the committee.”

Meanwhile, the reapportionment committees of House members and Senators have to be formed, Pringle said. Lawmakers should find out soon if they’ve been selected for the bodies that will have first votes on a new map.

Pringle said mapmakers will likely come up with a “hybrid” of previously proposed maps.

“There are so many floating around out there, many of them are similar,” he said.

Gov. Kay Ivey is the only person who can call the Legislature into a special session. A spokeswoman for Ivey on Friday said the governor’s office is reviewing the situation and any special session announcement would come from her.

The map redrawing could greatly change several of the seven incumbent Congress members’ districts as they prepare for the 2024 election cycle. The qualifying deadline will be in early November and the primary is March 5. It is expected that south Alabama’s districts 1 and 2 are most likely to change.

Deuel Ross, an attorney representing Black voters who challenged the map, told the AP the plaintiffs agreed to give the state “about a month” to draw a new plan. Ross said the three-judge panel will decide whether the new map complies with its order.

“Plaintiffs would file objections and perhaps its own alternative map,” Ross said on what would happen if plaintiffs disagreed with the map adopted by lawmakers.

This story will be updated.

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