The National Republican Redistricting Trust (NRRT) recently shared its U.S. Supreme Court brief supporting Alabama's redistricting efforts with the state's Permanent Legislative Committee on Reapportionment.
Last month, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), in Milligan v. Allen, upheld with a 5-4 vote a lower court's decision to require the Alabama Legislature to redraw the congressional districts to include a second largely or majority-black congressional district. The lower court asserted that Alabama's current congressional districts might violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965 since the 2020 census showed a slight decrease in the white population while the black population grew by over 3%.
After the ruling, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall told 1819 News that the case was not over.
"The Court made clear that its ruling was based only on the preliminary injunction record compiled in just a few weeks before the January 2022 district court ruling," Marshall said. "The State is still entitled to put on our full case at trial, and we are confident that the evidence will make clear that voters in Alabama, regardless of their race, have the same opportunity as any other members of the electorate to participate in the State's political processes and elect representatives of their choice."
According to the NRRT website, "[T]he NRRT focuses on the unique legal and data demands of redistricting and coordinates a nationwide redistricting strategy with the Republican Party's national and state committees and conservative organizations around the country."
In the submission to the reapportionment committee, NRRT says it filed the brief and compiled data with no input from the Alabama Congressional Delegation, Alabama Legislature, Alabama governor's office or Alabama Attorney General's office.
According to NRRT, SCOTUS agreeing with the lower court's assertion that Alabama's current congressional lines may violate section two of the Voting Rights Act in no way compels the state to create a second majority-minority district. NRRT further claims that inducing the state to craft such a district may violate existing Supreme Court precedent, making the state vulnerable to further litigation leading into the 2024 election year.
"Even Chief Justice Roberts' opinion in Allen v. Milligan affirming the lower court's finding that plaintiffs in Alabama demonstrated a reasonable likelihood that Alabama's congressional map likely violated § 2 of the Voting Rights Act states in no uncertain terms that 'forcing proportional representation is unlawful and inconsistent with the Court's approach to implementing § 2,'" NRRT said.
"Make no mistake, Alabama is not prohibited from enacting a map that provides for two majority black congressional districts, but it is not required to, and a mandate from a federal District Court to enact such a plan is likely error that runs afoul of the Supreme Court's precedent in DeGrandy and Chief Justice Roberts' own words in Allen v. Milligan."
The Alabama Legislature is still deliberating proposed district maps, and Gov. Kay Ivey has called for a special legislative session to convene on July 17.
Last month, the reapportionment committee heard a proposal supported by various plaintiffs in the redistricting lawsuit that would make major changes to congressional districts in southern Alabama. Under the proposal, the first congressional district would stretch from as far west as Mobile County to as far east as Houston County. The second congressional district would lose Autauga and Elmore Counties and flow from Washington County and the northern part of Mobile County to the eastern border counties of Russell, Barbour and Henry Counties. All of Montgomery County would be in the second congressional district.
According to NRRT, data does not show that race holds more sway over voting patterns than party affiliation.
"A major story of modern Alabama politics is the precipitous decline of the Democratic party even as the share of Alabama's black population has marginally increased," NRRT stated.
It continued, "For the Voting Rights Act to factor into any redistricting plan it must first be shown that the state has legally significant racially polarized voting. There is no clear legal standard for defining what that threshold is apart from the analyses and determinations of academics and the judgment of the court. In Alabama's recent litigation, neither side contended that Alabama lacked legally significant racially polarized voting, but an important examination should be conducted to identify whether candidates in Alabama lose on account of their race or on account of their party affiliation. The two can be difficult to disentangle but must be before any other race-based criteria be used to draw election districts."
Lastly, the NRRT claims the plaintiffs' purported desire to protect Alabama's Black Belt is inconsistent since "none of the maps put forward by plaintiffs keep the Black Belt in a single district." NRRT also suggested discrepancies in sundry definitions of what counties make up the Black Belt, making it impossible to create a district based on undefinable terms.
"In fact, the Black Belt is divided intentionally by plaintiffs in order to create two barely majority-minority districts," NRRT said. "Both of their proposed districts require connecting rural Black Belt counties with minority populations in the cities of Birmingham, Dothan, and Mobile."
"The most comprehensive survey found that addresses these discrepancies is a report from the University of Alabama's Education Policy Center. It compiled various lists and found that the Black Belt has been defined by as few as 12 counties and as many as 24. The report concludes that the Governor should 'convene an ad-hoc committee ... to develop a clear definition of the Black Belt for the state government, because you cannot measure what you cannot define.'"
The reapportionment committee's next meeting is scheduled for Thursday.
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