Alabama Map Ruling Stayed; Redistricting Update

By Jim Ellis

Alabama redistricting map (Click on the map above or go to DavesRedistricting.org to see interactive map)

Feb. 9, 2022 — On a 5-4 vote, the US Supreme Court voted to stay the lower court ruling that invalidated the new Alabama congressional map. A Republican three-judge panel had ruled that a second majority minority district could have been drawn among the state’s seven congressional districts, and thus disqualified the plan on Jan. 23.

Writing a concurring opinion, Justice Brett Kavanaugh stated that the lower court decision was made too close to the 2022 election, meaning that the judicial process would not have proper time to hear the appeal and make an educated ruling prior to the state’s scheduled primary election. The ruling does not mean the appeal was granted, but merely postpones hearing the case to a later date.

Analysts say the stay ensures that the original map will be in place for this year’s election. It does not mean, however, that the map won’t be altered for the 2024 election and beyond.

The new plan is virtually an extension of the current map, which elected six Republicans and one Democrat in the 2020 election. It was a curious original decision, not only because the judges that ruled against the GOP map drawers were appointed by former President Donald Trump (2) and the late President Ronald Reagan (1), but that the same map footprint stood unencumbered for the past 10 years.

The major change made from the current map to the new draw came in the 7th CD, which is the Voting Rights district. The legislature, however, had no choice but to make a substantial change. AL-7 was 53,143 people short of reaching the state’s congressional district population quota of 717,754 individuals.

The previous ruling also postponed the Jan. 28 candidate filing deadline for the Alabama US House candidates. Those running for all other offices have now already filed and been qualified for the respective party primary ballots. The congressional candidates will now file on Feb. 11.

Redistricting Notes

• Summarizing the legal action in other states, the North Carolina map has been disqualified and the legislature will now return to redraw the congressional and state legislative maps. As has been the case throughout the previous decade, the partisan Republican legislature and the partisan Democratic state Supreme Court continue to go back and forth over the issue of partisan gerrymandering.

• The lower court ruling in Michigan rejected the Detroit area Democratic current and former state legislators’ claim that the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission members violated the Voting Rights Act in drawing the city of Detroit’s congressional and state legislative maps. Unless an appeal is granted, the new Michigan maps will stand for this year’s elections.

• The Kansas legislature adjourned without voting to override Gov. Laura Kelly’s (D) veto of the state’s congressional map. The hasty adjournment move, however, allows the legislature to reconsider the veto override. Without a successful override vote, the map will go to the courts for a redrawing of the Kansas City metro area.

• The Ohio state Supreme Court had rejected the legislature’s congressional and legislative maps over the partisan gerrymandering issue. The legislature returned new state House and Senate maps that were again rejected for the same reason. New submissions were then further mandated.

• Despite the Washington State Redistricting Commission failing to meet their mandated deadline to complete maps, the state Supreme Court allowed the members one more day to finish their work. The maps were then completed and are working their way toward approval in the state legislature. Gov. Jay Inslee (D) must then approve the maps prior to enactment.

• The Wisconsin state Supreme Court is in the process of completing the congressional and legislative redistricting process after Gov. Tony Evers (D) vetoed the legislatures’ plans.

• Legal challenges are underway to the Georgia, Illinois, and Texas maps but the courts have yet to take action in any of those states. The challenges are over racial gerrymandering in Georgia and Texas, and partisan gerrymandering in Illinois.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) yesterday signed the legislature’s congressional, state House and Senate draws, thus completing the Volunteer State redistricting process.

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