Get the Daily News Digest in your inbox each morning. Sign Up

‘They’re gambling with it;’ Alabama Democrats say Republicans want another shot with SCOTUS on redistricting

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Alabama Legislature approved a new congressional district map on Friday after five days of intense debate. Many Democrats, however, believe that the Republican lawmakers who pushed the map across the finish line had another goal in mind: a new Supreme Court ruling on Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discriminatory voting practices.

Livingston Congressional Plan 3

The map ultimately approved by the Legislature was the Livingston Congressional Plan 3, sponsored by Sen. Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro, a map that came out of a six-person conference committee created to reconcile the differences between two different proposals that came out of the House and Senate. Most lawmakers had not seen the new map until Friday afternoon.


The Livingston Congressional Plan 3.
Livingston Congressional Plan 3 demographic data.

An amended version of the Livingston Congressional Plan 2 map, the new map, Livingston argued, would create two districts in which Black voters had an opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice. District 7, which in the plan would have a 50.65% Black-voting-age population – less than the existing map – and District 2, with a 39.93% BVAP.

‘Something is going on within their party’

In 2022, federal judges blocked Alabama from using its newly-adopted congressional districts in upcoming elections due to the state having just one Black-majority district, despite the state’s 27% Black population being enough to produce two Black-majority districts. 

The three-judge panel further wrote that “any remedial plan will need to include two districts in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it,” a ruling that was upheld and affirmed by the Supreme Court.

With one of the Livingston Congressional Plan 3 map’s so-called opportunity districts having a BVAP of just 39.93%, nearly all Alabama Democrats said the courts would likely reject the map and appoint a special master to create one in the Legislature’s stead.

“The map that was voted on Wednesday was already horrible, but with this new map that was changed out not long ago that we voted on today just made it even worse,” said Rep. Napoleon Bracy, D-Saraland. “It took District 7 down to about 51%, and it took District 2 to about 39%; 39% does not give us an opportunity to elect a Black person to Congress.”

Some Democrats, however, say Republicans are working toward a greater goal.

“If you just look at the Supreme Court order, it said a majority-minority district or something close to it; 39% is not close to it, and we all know that,” said Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, shortly after the Livingston plan made its way out of the conference committee, which he was appointed to.

“The process was tortured, the map is non-compliant, and I can only think of the strategy being ‘we’re going to be as non-compliant as we can possibly be to force this back to court, to possibly remind the Supreme Court justices we’re all conservatives here, maybe give us a bone,’ and overturn Section 2 of the VRA.”

Later on the House floor, England expanded on his theory, noting that Alabama had already played a role in weakening the VRA in 2013’s Shelby County v. Holder, the ruling of which eliminated federal oversight of voting policy changes. 

Rep. Chris England (left) speaks on the Livingston Congressional Plan proposal.

“If your wager to either eliminate the VRA or force us to use this illegal map for two more years fails, it hands our responsibility away to a special master; we had an opportunity to do it ourselves, and we failed,” England said on the House floor.

“The journey to finish off the VRA through Alabama continues; got Section 5 with the Shelby (County) case, and if your wager is correct, the Republican plan will be the last straw that finally breaks the VRA’s back.”

(From left to right): Members of the conference committee Sen. Rodger Smitherman, Rep. Chris Pringle, Rep. Chris Sells, and Sen. Steve Livingston.

Rep. Sam Jones, D-Mobile, told ADN he also believed the map that came out of the conference committee was an effort to see the constitutionality of the VRA litigated in the Supreme Court.

“It appears to me that they are looking for a way to get back in the court to argue just that; not just for Alabama, but nationwide because there are some other (VRA) cases that are pending, and I think that’s the whole goal here,” Jones said. “They’re gambling with it.”

Republicans either denied the allegation that they were targeting the VRA, or declined to comment entirely. Lawmakers in the majority have been advised by counsel not to comment to the press on this issue, lest their words be used in the impending litigation. 

“I don’t want to be in trouble,” said Rep. Randy Wood, R-Anniston, when asked to comment on the allegation.

“I’d rather not comment on that,” said Rep. Phillip Rigsby, R-Huntsville.

Reps. Ernie Yarbrough, R-Trinity, and Chris Pringle, R-Mobile, also declined to comment on the matter.

Rep. Danny Crawford, R-Athens, told ADN that he hadn’t heard of any efforts to get the state’s redistricting before the Supreme Court again, and that he had “heard the Supreme Court would probably not hear it again.”

Rep. Marcus Paramore, R-Troy, did not speak on the allegation other than calling it an “interesting interpretation.”

Gov. Kay Ivey signed the new congressional district map into law less than an hour after the Legislature had adjourned, saying that “the Legislature knows our state, our people and our districts better than the federal courts or activist groups.”

Courts are expected to review the plan and make a verdict as to whether it complied with the Supreme Court’s orders in the coming months.

Get the Daily News Digest in your inbox each morning.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Web Development By Infomedia