Alabama petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to temporarily halt a lower court’s decision that blocks the state’s recently redrawn congressional map, arguing the state isn’t required to create a second majority-black voting district, which it contends would result in a racially segregated court-drawn plan.
In June, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling, 5 to 4, that Alabama needed to redraw its congressional districting map so that black voters had the opportunity to elect the candidate of their choice, per the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
However, the map passed by the state Legislature in July had only one majority-black district out of seven. Alabama is a state where 27 percent of the population is black.
Last week, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama found that state lawmakers, when they created a new districting map in July, failed to follow an earlier court order requiring that they adhere to the federal Voting Rights Act.
The three-judge panel did not accept the state’s argument that drawing a second black-majority district would unconstitutionally constitute “affirmative action in redistricting.”
The three-member panel was comprised of Judge Stanley Marcus of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, appointed by President Bill Clinton; and District Judges Anna Manasco and Terry Moorer, both of whom were appointed by President Donald Trump.
On Monday, Alabama Secretary of State Wes Allen’s submission, directed to Justice Clarence Thomas, who handles urgent matters from that jurisdiction, requests the Supreme Court to suspend the lower court’s ruling by Oct. 1.
Alabama contends that the lower court’s ruling would result in a racially segregated court-drawn plan that divides communities of interest, thereby establishing a second majority-black district, which contravenes the state’s redistricting principles.
In the plea to the high court, Mr. Allen seeks to prevent the lower court’s ruling from taking effect while the appeal process unfolds. In specific voting rights cases, the state can directly appeal to the Supreme Court.
Federal Court Rejects Request for Stay
Earlier on Monday, the same three-judge panel refused to grant Mr. Allen’s request for a stay regarding a ruling that mandated the appointment of a special master to create three potential congressional maps later in the month. This decision stemmed from an earlier determination that Alabama’s initial redistricting proposals were likely to diminish the voting influence of black residents.
As a result of the state Legislature’s failure to comply, a court-appointed special master will now draw Alabama’s congressional map for the 2024 election cycle.
The three-judge panel concluded that there was no genuine “emergency” as asserted by Mr. Allen.
The judges found that Mr. Allen had not demonstrated Alabama’s likelihood of success based on the merits of the case during the appeal process concerning the special master’s decision.
“We have said before that ‘this is a straightforward Section Two case, not a legal unicorn,’” they wrote. “This case remains straightforward. We are aware, however, of no other case—and the Secretary does not direct us to one—in which a state legislature, faced with a federal court order declaring that its electoral plan unlawfully dilutes minority votes and requiring a plan that provides an additional opportunity district, responded with a plan that the state concedes does not provide that district. Likewise, it is exceptionally unusual for a litigant who has presented his arguments to the Supreme Court once already—and lost—to assert that he is now ‘overwhelmingly likely’ to prevail on those same arguments in that Court in this case.”
The judges were firm in asserting that there was no “emergency” and pointed out that the schedule for alternative maps was proceeding as agreed upon by all parties involved.
“As an initial matter, there is no emergency. We ruled expeditiously, weeks in advance of the early October deadline that the Secretary twice told us he needed to make,” the judges wrote. “We have eleven illustrative maps in hand already, and the Special Master and his team are hard at work to recommend a lawful map for us to order the Secretary to use on the timetable that he set. In our view, these proceedings are running on precisely the schedule agreed upon by all parties.”
In light of these circumstances, the judges expressed their inability to comprehend why it would be considered a reasonable exercise of their discretion to grant a stay during Mr. Allen’s second appeal. They said that “the law requires the creation of an additional district that affords Black Alabamians, like everyone else, a fair and reasonable opportunity to elect candidates of their choice.”