Three federal judges chose David Ely on Wednesday as the new court-appointed map drawer in an upcoming redistricting lawsuit hearing in federal court. 

If a congressional redistricting plan passed by Republicans in a special session recently is rejected in an upcoming hearing beginning on August 14, Ely and a court-appointed special master would draw a different congressional map for Alabama for the 2024 elections.

The selection of Ely as a new cartographer for the upcoming hearing was necessary because a map maker selected previously by the court withdrew from the case recently. Both plaintiffs and the defendant, the state of Alabama, submitted candidates to be considered for the position, but the judges ultimately sided with one of the plaintiffs' choices.

"The Court reviewed the parties' submissions and conducted our own research as to the candidates' credentials and experience. As noted in the submissions, Mr. Ely has extensive experience as a map-drawer, consultant, and expert on districting plans," Federal Judges Stanley Marcus, Anna Manasco, and Terry Moorer said in a court order on Wednesday. "He has drawn maps and provided expert consulting services for cities, counties, and other legislative bodies in Texas, California, Utah, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Massachusetts, and Illinois. He has also previously recommended remedial plans to a federal district court to remedy a Voting Rights Act in his capacity as a special master in a redistricting case in Louisiana. Based on the current information before the Court, the Court finds David R. Ely well qualified to serve as the Court's cartographer in this case."

According to a filing by the plaintiffs, Ely is the President of Compass Demographics and has "deep and wide-ranging experience as a map drawer, consultant, and expert on districting plans." He has drawn maps and provided consulting services in those areas for dozens of cities, counties, and other legislative bodies in Texas, California, Utah, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Massachusetts, and Illinois. He was also appointed as a special master by a federal court in 2019 and devised a remedial plan to address a Voting Rights Act violation in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana. Before founding Compass Demographics in 2007, he served for 21 years as Director of Research for the Redistricting and Reapportionment practice of Pactech Data and Research.

 Richard Allen has been appointed as the court's special master.

The redistricting case is being watched across the state and nation because whatever congressional map the court decides on could determine whether Republicans or Democrats control the U.S. House in 2024. 

The map passed by Republicans in the special session is generally viewed as a map where Republicans in Alabama can maintain a 6-1 split in their congressional delegation even with an increased black voting age population of about 40% in the second congressional district currently represented by U.S. Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise). Plaintiffs in the Milligan v. Allen lawsuit are hoping the court will throw out the map passed by Republicans and draw a new map with two majority-black congressional districts.

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