Conservative legal experts are watching closely to see whether the State of Alabama will be successful in defending the new congressional map in court.
Republicans passed a different map last week that kept one majority-minority district and one with a 40% black voting-age population.
A three-judge panel in federal district court in January 2022 found Alabama's congressional map passed in 2021 likely unconstitutional and said a "remedial plan will need to include two districts in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it." The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the judges' opinion on appeal by the State of Alabama in June.
Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation born in Huntsville, told 1819 News in a recent interview doubted whether the state would successfully defend the new map at an upcoming hearing on August 14.
"If their defense is going to be that they've maintained the one majority-minority black district and the second district at 40% is an opportunity district for black voters in which they're going to be able to elect their candidate of choice, the only way they'll be able to succeed in that is if they can prove that there are enough other white voters in that district who agree with and vote for the same candidates that a majority of black voters choose so that black voters will be able to elect their candidate of choice," Spakovsky said. "Unless the state can show that there are enough white voters in combination with the black voters (to) consist of a majority that is going to vote together to elect the candidate of choice of black voters, I mean they're not going to be able to defend this in court. That's the key to this."
Spakovsky said, "If Alabama is going to try to defend this by trying to re-argue the case that ended up at the Supreme Court to try to convince them to try to reconsider their decision, that's not going to work either."
"That is not going to succeed," he added. "Now, I've made it clear that I agree with the dissenting judges in that Supreme Court case. As you know, it was a 5-4 decision. I think that Chief Justice Roberts just got it wrong. If Alabama puts on a defense of simply trying to get the Court to reconsider its decision, that's going to lose. Alabama argued that Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act shouldn't apply to redistricting. The Court said yes it does apply that's been accepted law for decades and they also made it clear that they thought there was enough evidence produced in the case to meet the requirements again of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act therefore it required two districts in which black voters will be able to elect their candidate of choice. Normally, that requires enough black voters to be at least 51% but usually more than that because of the fact that you don't have 100% turnout."
The outcome of the congressional map for the 2024 elections that will be decided at a federal district court in Birmingham would ultimately be decided by whether the Court thinks Alabama's second congressional district in the Southeast part of the state is an opportunity district, according to Spakovsky.
"If the court doesn't believe that the Second District is really an opportunity district for black voters, Alabama is going to lose," Spakovsky said.
Adam Kincaid, executive director of the National Republican Redistricting Trust, told 1819 News Alabama's new congressional map complies with the Supreme Court's Gingles precedents.
"It is a defensible map that should hold up in court," Kincaid said.
Kincaid said the redistricting situation in Alabama is being watched very closely.
"The current House majority is narrow, the previous House majority was narrow, and the next House majority could very well be narrow. Every seat matters in the current political environment," Kincaid said. "The situation in Alabama is being watched very closely."
It's also possible there could be multiple changes to Alabama's congressional map throughout the decade depending on future court rulings.
"Both potential remedies proposed by the District Court in Alabama are not available under the Supreme Court's Sec 2 enforcement precedents. If Alabama's congressional map violates Sec 2 and there is no judicially available remedy then Alabama's elections could be thrown into chaos repeatedly this decade until the courts resolve the impasse," Kincaid told 1819 News.
To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email caleb.taylor@1819News.com.
Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.