Alabama coalition partners spoke out against the redistribution maps approved by the state legislature on Wednesday. They raised concerns about what they see as a lack of transparency, accessibility, accountability and non-adoption of fair maps during the redistribution process.
“(Wednesday) the passage of new district maps for Alabama was a disappointment from start to finish – from the lack of accessibility during public hearings in September to the failure of lawmakers to rely on experts who could help them advise them on constitution making and voting. districts compliant with the rights law, lack of transparency during the special session where lawmakers voted on cards they hadn’t even seen before, ”said JaTaune Bosby, executive director of ACLU Alabama. “This elected body has had the opportunity to tackle the historic injustices that have led to decades of dilution of black voting power, and instead chose a path where they have sought to use race to maintain power. ”
Many grassroots organizations worked during the redistribution process to explain the process to voters and to hold lawmakers accountable. Coalition members and Democratic lawmakers have expressed concern over the lack of data from studies on racial polarization, they say the legislature needs to properly analyze the maps.
“Prior to approving the four electoral district maps signed by our governor, our state officials did not study race-biased voting patterns,” said Evan Milligan, executive director of Alabama Forward. “These studies are well established in the field of redistribution and would have helped us understand how voting cards can unfairly favor or disadvantage candidates in elections. This information is even more critical for those who want Alabama to emerge from the anti-civil rights shadows of the state’s past. Failing to recognize the value of this information, the majority of our officials have chosen cards that dilute the voting power of the cultural communities themselves responsible for the demographic growth of our state over the past ten years. In fact, the growth of these communities has prevented our state from losing one of our seven seats in Congress. ”
Alabama Women’s Voters’ League President Kathy Jones underscored the Legislature’s eagerness to make a decision that will affect Alabamians for the next decade.
“In less than a week, the Alabama legislature passed bills to define the electoral district maps of the State House, Senate, Congress and Council of Education for the ten next few years, ”Jones said. These cards were handed over by the reassignment committee attorneys just one day before the reassignment committee meeting on Tuesday, October 26. The detailed cards have never been considered by Alabama lawmakers, and efforts to making changes to address concerns have been repeatedly pushed back by reassignment. commission chairs. Alabama deserves better than this rush to pass cards created by political agents out of state who don’t work. not in the best interest of the citizens and communities of Alabama. Alabama deserves fair cards that respect communities of interest and truly respect and protect the voices of every voter. ”
Kathryn Sadasivan, NAACP Legal Defense Fund redistribution advisor, said the cards denied black Alabamians the chance to elect any candidates they wanted.
“Cards adopted by the Alabama legislature and promulgated by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey today explicitly deny black Alabamians the opportunity to elect any candidate they want to Congress and the state legislature “Sadasivan said. “This is a monumental and intentional failure of both the legislature and the governor, who refused to conduct the analysis required to comply with the voting rights law and represents another direct attempt by officials. of Alabama to dilute the voting power of blacks. Silencing the voices of blacks fails all Alabamians because it deprives the entire state of the possibility of having a truly representative government that puts the concerns of its communities first. ”
This was the first round of redistribution where Article 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which required prior authorization, was not in place as a safety measure to give more responsibility to the Assembly. legislative.
“This special session’s efforts to deny voters a voice will result in costly court challenges that will pay the price for taxpayers,” said Jack Genberg, senior counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center. “Once again, Alabama has shown that federal protections like those in the John R. Lewis Advancement of Voting Rights Act are necessary to ensure these cards are reviewed to ensure they do not harm not to voters of color before their implementation. ”
The Congress card is already being challenged for diluting the voting power of black communities in the state in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by a group of voter-plaintiffs with support from the National Redistricting Foundation. The trial, Caster vs. Merrill, was filed with the United States District Court for the Central District of Alabama.
“The state legislature and Governor Ivey refuse to protect the people they were elected to serve, and they leave us no choice but to support a challenge to this discriminatory card which diminishes the voice of black communities of Alabama, “said Marina Jenkins, director of litigation and policy for the NRF. “This map is the result of a redistribution process led by interested politicians solely focused on maintaining power, to the detriment of fair representation. Alabama’s black voices need to be heard and they deserve cards that reflect their voting power in the state.
Between 2010 and 2020, Alabama’s black population increased while the white population declined. According to the 2020 census, black Alabamians now make up over 27% of the state’s population.
The complaint alleges that the new congressional plan divides black voters in Alabama among several congressional districts, despite the fact that the black population is large enough and geographically compact enough to form the majority of the voting age population in a second district in the Congress. The plaintiffs in this case are asking the court to declare that the new card violates section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and to order the enactment of a new congressional plan that includes two predominantly black congressional districts.