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Plaintiffs narrow scope of legislative district maps lawsuit

Plaintiffs who alleged in 2021 that nearly a quarter of Alabama Senate and House districts were racially gerrymandered in the most recent redrawing of district maps have narrowed the scope of their lawsuit.

Court filings show the areas of concern focus now on Senate districts in Montgomery and Huntsville.
Attorney General Steve Marshall, representing the state in the federal lawsuit, said Thursday the challenges were dropped in other districts after he moved to dismiss the claims.

“For two years, my office has been defending the state’s redistricting plans,” Marshall said in a written statement Thursday. “I am pleased to report that the plaintiffs have dropped all their challenges to the State House districts and nearly all their challenges to the State Senate districts.

“We think the plaintiffs’ remaining two claims also lack merit. I will continue to defend Alabama’s laws and fight attempts to redraw our districts based on racial goals rather than common interests.”

The 2021 lawsuit challenged 12 of the state’s 35 Senate districts and 21 of 105 House districts.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of voters in Tuscaloosa and Montgomery and plaintiffs included Greater Birmingham Ministries, Alabama NAACP.

“Despite deploying new tricks and tools to justify their actions during redistricting, defendants cannot conceal their use of race as a predominant factor in drawing many state legislative districts,” the original Nov. 2021 court filing said. “Those districts are not drawn in a way that is narrowly tailored to comply with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act or justified by any other compelling governmental interest.”

In a Wednesday court filing, plaintiffs, who also include the ACLU of Alabama and the Southern Poverty Law Center, said issues in Huntsville and Montgomery senate districts remain.

“In Montgomery, (the Senate district map) unnecessarily packs Black voters into State Senate District 26 in Montgomery while carving white residents out of the district and into District 25,” the filing says.
Sen. Kirk Hatcher, D-Montgomery, represents District 26; Sen. Will Barfoot, R-Pike Road, represents District 27.

“In the Huntsville region, (the map) unnecessarily cracks Black voters in State Senate Districts 2, 7, and 8 in Huntsville, thereby preserving three districts where candidates preferred by white voters reliably win,” it says.
Those districts are represented by Republican Sens. Tom Butler, Huntsville; Sam Givhan, Huntsville, and Steve Livingston, Scottsboro.

Chief Deputy Attorney General Clay Crenshaw on Thursday told a panel of lawmakers the state is preparing for a possible trial in the case in the fall of 2024.

State lawmakers in 2021 redrew State House and congressional district lines based on 2020 census numbers. The state was also sued over the congressional district map and a new court-ordered map that gives Black voters a better chance at electing the candidate of their choice in two of the state’s seven districts is now in effect.

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