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US Supreme Court refuses to hear Alabama’s request to keep separate and unequal political districts

Henry L. Chambers Jr., Professor of Law, University of Richmond, The Conversation on

Published in News & Features

For the second time in three months, the U.S. Supreme Court has rebuffed Alabama’s attempts to advance its legislature’s congressional maps that federal courts have ruled harm Black voters.

The court had first rejected the maps in its stunning June 8, 2023, decision that upheld the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But in an act of defiance, Alabama lawmakers resubmitted maps that didn’t include what the court had urged them to do – create a second political district in which Black voters could reasonably be expected to choose a candidate of their choice.

On Sept. 26, the court put those Alabama plans on hold and refused to stop a three-judge federal court panel’s plan to choose the maps Alabama will use in its 2024 elections from among a set of three maps drawn by a court-appointed special master.

One of those maps includes the creation of a second congressional district that has a majority of Black voters, and the other two would increase the percentage of Black voters in an existing district to give them a reasonable chance of electing candidates of their own choosing.

Currently, only one of Alabama’s seven congressional districts is majority Black, although Black residents make up 27% of the state’s population and voting rights advocates argued that their numbers suggest they should control at least two of the state’s congressional districts.

On Sept. 5, the panel of three federal judges rebuked the Alabama Legislature when it ruled that the state’s proposed voting districts failed to create the second Black district.


The federal judges wrote they were “deeply troubled” that Alabama lawmakers submitted a new plan that did not adhere to previous court rulings, including one issued by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 8.

“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,” the three judges wrote, adding that the state’s new plan “plainly fails to do so.”

For the 2024 elections, the federal panel of judges assigned a special master to draw three potential maps that each include two districts where Black voters have a realistic opportunity of electing their preferred candidate. Those redistricting proposals were submitted on Sept. 25, 2023.

Alabama officials have denied any wrongdoing and said their proposed voting districts, including one where the percentage of Black voters jumped from about 30% to 40%, were in compliance with recent federal court rulings.


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