The Alabama congressional map took center stage in a Montgomery courtroom on Thursday as the Alabama Supreme Court announced its decision to settle the question on congressional redistricting.
The ruling is likely to result in more Democratic representation in the House of Representatives in the future. The current congressional map was drawn by the state legislature in 2011, taking Alabama from seven congressional districts to eight.
The map was originally passed by the Republican-controlled Alabama State Senate, which some allege was drawn to favor Republican candidates. The map was then submitted to the Obama Administration’s Justice Department for approval, which despite being incorrectly identified for approval in New Jersey, failed to meet basic requirements of the voting rights act.
The Justice Department blocked the rollout of the map and the issue has been in the courts ever since. Several rights groups have argued before the court that the map did not take race into account which in turn meant that black people were deprived of equal voting power.
The Alabama Supreme Court found that the map did not meet the three redistricting criteria set out by the Department of Justice. Namely, it did not adequately recognize state and county boundaries, it did not consider population growth since 2011, and it did not take into account racial makeup of the state’s population.
The Court also found that the map violated provisions of the Voting Rights Act, and thus was in clear violation of federal law.
The Alabama Supreme Court has ordered the state legislature to draw up a new congressional map that meets the Department of Justice’s criteria. The court also gave the legislature a deadline of January 24th, 2020 to submit the map.
The new map is likely to mean a shift from the current Republican-favored map to one more favorable to Democrats. This in turn could mean a shift in representation from the current 7 Republicans and 1 Democrat to a map that more closely reflects the racial makeup of the state.
The state legislature will now be tasked with redrawing the current map in line with the mandate from the court. It will be interesting to see how this court decision affects the representative makeup in the state come 2020.