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Redistricting: special master submits Alabama Congressional map proposals

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A court-ordered special master on Monday submitted three proposals for Alabama’s Congressional map after the one lawmakers approved in July was ruled to likely be a violation of the Voting Rights Act.

The three proposals would increase the Black-voting-age population in both Districts 2 and 7 to either a majority or near-majority. They all also put two current Republican congressmen in the same district.

Lawmakers were first ordered to adopt a new Congressional map back in June when the Supreme Court upheld a ruling by a three-judge federal panel that instructed lawmakers to create two opportunity districts for Black voters. To do this, the ruling dictated that the Legislature create two Congressional districts with a near-Black majority, or “something quite close to it.”

During a special session in July, lawmakers instead adopted a map that brought District 2’s Black-voting-age population to just under 40%, a map that the three-judge panel ultimately rejected. The panel then ordered a special master to submit Congressional map proposals in the Legislature’s stead.

Remedial Plan 1

The first of the newly submitted Congressional map proposals would make significant changes to Districts 1, 2 and 7 when compared to what lawmakers approved in July.

District 1, which is represented by Rep. Jerry Carl, would grow and encroach into District 2, represented by Rep. Barry Moore. District 1, which sits on Alabama’s southern coast, would stretch east to Alabama’s eastern border to include the majority of Houston County.

District 2, one of the two Black opportunity districts, would stretch westward to include Washington County, and see its Black-voting-age population grow from nearly 40% to 50.1%.

District 7, the second Black opportunity district, would lose Conecuh, Monroe, Washington and parts of Clarke counties to the south, but would see its Black-voting-age population grow from 50.7% to 52.8%.

Election performance data provided for Remedial Plan 1 also shows that out of the past 17 election contests, District 2 would have chosen a Black-preferred candidate 15 times, with a margin of victory of 10.3%, and District 7 all 17 times, with a margin of victory of 29.3%.

Remedial Plan 2

Under the Remedial Plan 2, District 1 would include a slightly smaller portion of Mobile County when compared to Remedial Plan 1, but the entirety of Houston County to the east. 

In District 2, the Black-voting-age population would instead be raised to 48.5%, and District 7 would be raised to 52.8%, the same as in Remedial Plan 1. The election performance data for the past 17 election contests had District 2 winning 13 contests with a 8.2% margin of victory, and 17 contests in District 7 with a 29.3% margin of victory.

Remedial Plan 3

Similar to Remedial Plan 2, Remedial Plan 3 would see District 1 expand even more northward when compared to Remedial Plan 2, and encompass Henry County and a larger portion of Mobile County.

The Black-voting-age population for District 2 would rise to 48.7%, and in District 7 to 51.9%, the smallest Black-voting age population for District 7 of the three proposals. In the election performance data analysis of the past 17 election contests, District 2 would win 16 contests with a 10.3% margin of victory, and all 17 contests in District 7 with a 28.8% margin of error.

‘This is what they asked for’

The Remedial Plan 1 proposal bears a strong resemblance to the proposal first offered by the plaintiffs in Allen v. Milligan, the Supreme Court case that was the impetus for lawmakers being forced to redraw the Congressional maps in the first place.

The similarities were not lost on Deuel Ross, lead counsel for the Milligan plaintiffs, who told Alabama Daily News Monday that he and his team were pleased to see the proposals.

“We’re glad to see that the special master took our plan into consideration, his first plan seems to be very close to what we proposed, and we think that’s a proper remedy in this case,” Ross said. 

“I think we’re still taking our time to analyze the other two plans, but we’re happy to see the special master took our view seriously.”

Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, noted the similarities of the Remedial Plan 1 as well, telling Alabama Daily News Monday that “this is what (the courts) asked for,” and that the proposal was “essentially a really close match to the plaintiffs’ map.”

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, who has spoken strongly against the court’s rejection of the map lawmakers approved in July, as has much of the state GOP, will provide comments to the court by Thursday, according to a spokesperson with his office. The state earlier this month asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block the judges’ order and let it use the Legislature-approved map. 

Carl told Alabama Daily News Monday that despite the potential change to his district, he still intends on running for reelection in 2024.

“Once again we have seen activist judges overstep their roles,” Carl said. “South Alabama and its communities need to stay together. However, let me be clear, I will be running for reelection in Alabama’s First Congressional District.”

Another member of Congress who said the map proposals would have no bearing on running for reelection in 2024 was Rep. Terri Sewell, who represents District 7.

“Today, despite the relentless efforts by state officials to delay, obstruct, and defy, we are one step closer to having fair congressional maps in the State of Alabama,” Sewell said Monday. “I applaud the special master for submitting three strong proposals which prove what we have long known to be true; the creation of two districts where Black voters can elect a candidate of their choice was possible from the very beginning.”

The three-judge panel is expected to select one of the three Congressional map proposals in the coming days.

“I think the three-judge panel is barreling towards a resolution as quickly as possible to get in front of that (Oct. 1) deadline that the state imposed,” England said. 

House Majority Leader Anthony Daniels, D-Huntsville, on Monday evening said fair elections begin with fair maps.

“There was never a good or defensible reason that Black voters – who represent 27% of Alabama’s population – had only 14% representation in Congress,” Daniels said. “One of the core tenets of our democracy is the rule of ‘one person, one vote.’ And, for this concept to ring true, those votes must be of one value.

Alabama Daily News’ Mary Sell contributed to this report.

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