By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama on Tuesday began appealing a federal court ruling that ordered the state to draw new congressional districts, including a second district with a substantial number of minority voters.
The Alabama attorney general’s office filed a notice of appeal to the judges’ order that blocked the current map from being used in upcoming 2022 elections. The state argued similar maps had been in use for decades with court approval and the ruling is problematic with the closeness of May primaries. The state also asked the judges to stay their order during the appeals process.
“And roughly two months before absentee voting begins, it is clear that the Court’s order will cause irreparable harm to Alabama, its aspiring congressional representatives, and the voters they seek to represent,” lawyers for the state wrote in the emergency motion. The state asked for a quick ruling, and a judge ordered attorneys for voters who filed the initial lawsuit to submit a response by Thursday night.
A three-judge panel on Monday issued a preliminary injunction that blocked Alabama from using its current map that created one heavily Black district and six heavily white districts. “Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress,” judges wrote in the ruling.
The judges wrote that any remedial plan will need to include two districts in which Black voters, “either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it.”
The ruling was a victory for Democrats who had argued the lines pack many Black voters into a single district and limits the ability of Black voters elsewhere to influence elections because they live in overwhelming white Republican districts.
House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels said districts lines should reflect the racial and political diversity of the state. Alabama’s congressional delegation consists of one Black Democrat and six white Republicans. Black people make up about 27% of Alabama’s population.
“Well, for me, a state that is approximately 40% Democrat with only one representative out of seven, I mean, that speaks for itself,” he said.
Daniels suggested it would be best for the court to go ahead and draw the districts.
“I suspect this will probably make it up to the Supreme Court at some point, but I think that this is going to set the tone for the nation and addressing redistricting long-term,” he said.
The three judges that issued the ruling consisted of one judge appointed by former President Bill Clinton — Senior U.S. Circuit Judge Stanley Marcus and two judges appointed by former President Donald Trump — U.S. District Judges Anna Manasco and U.S. District Judge Terry Moorer.
The Alabama House speaker told reporters Tuesday that legislative leaders are discussing how to proceed.
“Well, we’re meeting with legal, and we’re finding out what our options are, and at this point, we don’t know we just got to wait and see,” Republican House Speaker Mac McCutcheon of Monrovia told reporters.
McCutcheon said the, “reapportionment committees is ready to go to work” if needed. The state faces a tight timeline. Party primaries are in May.