Nobody knows what Alabama's next congressional map will look like in the next few weeks, but it will most likely feature multiple splits with counties in different congressional districts and put local election officials under a tight deadline for implementation, according to Alabama Secretary of State Director of Elections Jeff Elrod.

Alabama's most recent congressional map passed by Republican legislators in a July special session was thrown out by a panel of three federal judges last week. The order from the judges said the map didn't go far enough in creating a second congressional district where a black Democrat could be elected. A special master is currently drawing map proposals that the three-judge panel will then force Alabama to use in the 2024 elections if the Supreme Court doesn't place a stay on the process.

"My understanding is that there is a hearing for the appeal. The state is appealing. That hearing is set for Oct. 3rd which means that sometime after the 3rd we'll get the map that the court has approved for us to use which means that the Registrars are going to have an extremely limited time to implement those changes. We already have a tight deadline and turnaround with that because qualifying ends Nov. 10th. Ballots are going to be printed the end of December because absentee starts at the beginning of January," Elrod said at a Voter Registration Advisory Board meeting on Thursday. "This time we don't have a map so we don't know which counties are going to be the most affected. We do know based on what we've been told that it is likely that there will be multiple splits with counties."

Any proposal with two majority-black congressional districts in Alabama would likely mean more county splits between districts.

"The redistricting process is really convoluted. The reapportionment office in the House and the Legislature in general they have the opportunity to draw the lines (and) they do try to follow pre-existing lines and jurisdictions and locations," Elrod said. "The problems come in when you have a special master that's unfamiliar with the state appointed. That's what we're dealing with now. I think that most efforts are being made to follow existing lines but since it's no longer in the control of the state we don't have any way of knowing what proposal is going to be approved or adopted. We don't know what proposal they're going to favor. We know that they appointed a special master. We don't know if that special master is going to follow pre-drawn proposals, some combination of, or do their own thing. At this point, we're just waiting."

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