3-Judge Panel Blocks Blatantly Gerrymandered GOP Maps

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A panel of three federal judges has blocked a new Congressional district map in Alabama from going into effect in response to legal challenges outlining how the map negatively impacts Black voters. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Black residents comprise over one-fourth of Alabama’s population, but the Congressional redistricting plan that was pushed by Republican state leaders gave just one U.S. House district — out of seven — to a Black majority. Now, that federal judicial panel has concluded that challengers taking on the Congressional map are “substantially likely” to come out ahead in their arguments that the set-up violates the Voting Rights Act. The judges added that, with the map in place, Black Alabama residents would have “less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect the candidates of their choice to Congress.”

The Montgomery Advertiser — an Alabama newspaper — notes that state officials have given just one Congressional district to a majority of marginalized community members (rather than a white majority) for nearly 30 years. The judges handling this matter said that they agreed that a plan to fix the issues would seemingly need to add another district with a majority or nearly a majority of Black residents to the map. As the judges — including two Trump appointees! — put it:

‘Both sets of plaintiffs… suggest, and we agree, that as a practical reality, the evidence of racially polarized voting adduced during the preliminary injunction proceedings suggests 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.’

Evan Milligan, who was one of those behind these challenges, triumphantly insisted this week that Alabamians who’ve historically been left behind “deserve to be heard in our electoral process, rather than have our votes diluted using a map that purposefully cracks and packs Black communities.” “Cracking,” in this context, refers to spreading members of a particular community across multiple districts in order to keep them from expressing themselves as a more unified entity in district-wide elections, while “packing” means putting particular community members in an unnecessarily compact district environment, so that they’re all or nearly all in one district or just a few districts, leaving the rest to those in power.

Gerrymandering — meaning the political manipulation of the line-drawing process — allows for certain officials to make it so that their side has an unfair advantage essentially built right into the process. In Ohio, the state Supreme Court recently struck down state legislative and Congressional district lines that had been pushed by Republican leaders, ordering the set-ups to be redrawn. As signed by Republican Governor Mike DeWine, Republicans seemed set to control 80 percent of the state’s U.S. House seats under the previous map, though Trump won there with a much smaller margin in 2020. Thus, the map didn’t accurately reflect the political distribution of the population in the state.