A federal court selected a new congressional map for Alabama that includes a second Black opportunity district, a consequence of the 2023 Supreme Court decision that found the state violated the Voting Rights Act when it drew new maps following the 2020 census.
The new court-imposed map creates a second Black-plurality district in southern Alabama, which Democrats should be heavily favored in: It voted 56%-43% for President Joe Biden in 2020. The court created the new district, the state’s 2nd, by moving the heavily white coastal region bordering Florida into the 1st congressional district and extending the 2nd district across the Black Belt, named for the rich soil that favored the crop plantations where enslaved people labored and their descendants still reside. The new district is 49% black and 44% white.
Alabama Republicans agreed to abide by the new court-drawn map, at least for the 2024 election.
“The Office of the Secretary of State will facilitate the 2024 election cycle in accordance with the map the federal court has forced upon Alabama and ordered us to use,” Alabama Secretary of State Wes Allen said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Democrats hailed the new map as a win for voting rights and the Black residents of Alabama.
“Today’s decision affirms that Alabama will no longer have a map that dilutes the voting strength of Black citizens, but rather one that reflects the diversity of the state and ensures every community’s voice is heard in Congress,” Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), chair of the DCCC, the lead campaign arm of House Democrats, said in a statement.
While the new Alabama House district adds just one seat to Democrats’ column, every seat matters in the closely divided House. Republicans currently hold just a five-seat majority in the chamber. The loss of this seat in 2024 gives them less room for error in protecting their majority. And there are other opportunities for Democrats as redistricting efforts and lawsuits continue to advance. Voting rights challenges in Louisiana, Florida and South Carolina could add another three Black opportunity districts, aiding Democrats. Meanwhile, New York Democrats are currently arguing a case in state courts to allow them to redraw their 2022 maps to establish more favorable district lines. But, Republicans may pick up seats in North Carolina after the new GOP majority on the state Supreme Court invalidated the current court-drawn map.
The creation of the new 2nd congressional district follows a yearslong litigation process after Alabama Republicans drew a congressional map in 2021 that Black Alabamians argued discriminated against them based on their race. Racial discrimination in redistricting is illegal under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which was passed in 1965 following the famous Selma-to-Montgomery civil rights protest march in Alabama.
After a lower court panel struck down Alabama’s map as discriminatory, the state appealed to the Supreme Court to argue for a new race-blind standard for Voting Rights Act cases. The court, with its six-vote conservative supermajority, surprised many when it rejected Alabama’s argument in Allen v. Milligan with a 5-4 decision and ordered the state to draw a new map with a second Black opportunity district.
But the state did not comply. Instead, Alabama Republicans drew up a new map that, yet again, contained only one Black opportunity district. They did so on the assumption that Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who joined the majority in Allen, had signaled his openness to reversing his vote in a concurrence he filed in the case.
Alabama, however, read the signs incorrectly. In September, the court rejected the state’s appeal to reverse its June decision in Allen and directed the state to follow a lower court ruling requiring the state accept a court-drawn map due to its intransigence.
The 2nd congressional district now joins the 7th district, represented by Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell, as opportunities for Black voters to elect their chosen representatives. It is the first time in Alabama’s history that it has had two Black plurality congressional districts, despite having one of the highest percentages of Black residents of any state.
It also leaves GOP Rep. Barry Moore with a difficult path to stay in office. He has hinted he may run in the new 1st district against incumbent GOP Rep. Jerry Carl, but the new district contains far more of Carl’s constituency than Moore’s. Both Moore and Carl are staunch conservatives, and both have endorsed former President Donald Trump in 2024.