Sep 7, 2023

Court Rejects Alabama’s Congressional Map Again for Diluting Power of Black Voters Transcript

Court Rejects Alabama's Congressional Map Again for Diluting Power of Black Voters Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsAlabamaCourt Rejects Alabama’s Congressional Map Again for Diluting Power of Black Voters Transcript

After being ordered to create a second majority Black district, Republicans in the state chose to defy the U.S. Supreme Court. Read the transcript here.

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Speaker 1 (00:00):

In a growing pattern across the South, key states have come under legal fire for drawing congressional maps that discriminate against black voters. Laura Barron-Lopez has more.

Laura Barron-Lopez (00:11):

Delivering a harsh rebuke of Alabama’s lawmakers, federal judges again struck down the state’s new congressional map. After being ordered to create a second majority Black district, Republicans in the state instead, chose to defy the US Supreme Court, violating the law under the Voting Rights Act. Alabama is just one of a handful of southern states that are litigating congressional districts. Maps in Florida, Louisiana, and Georgia have all been challenged for diluting the power of black voters. Following this all closely is NPR’s Hansi Lo Wang. Hansi, thanks so much for joining us today. The three judge panel in Alabama came down hard on the state’s new map yesterday saying that, “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 2023 plan plainly fails to do so.” You’ve followed this closely. What happens next now that this has been struck down?

Hansi Lo Wang (01:19):

Well, now that the map’s been struck down, the court has appointed experts to come up with three proposals, three potential new maps, congressional maps for the state of Alabama. And those proposals are due later this month, and the judges will eventually review those maps and all the sides in the case will be able to bring up any objections and there might be a hearing in early October, and ultimately, the court is going to decide which map ends up being used for next year, the 2024 elections. But there might be a potential complication here because the state of Alabama has also said that it’s planning to appeal this ruling by the three judge court to the US Supreme Court. And so there could be a request here that we’re expecting soon, from the state of Alabama asking the Supreme Court to pause the lower court’s ruling that could potentially, pause this map-making process by these court appointed experts and potentially a review by the Supreme Court.

But something to keep in mind is that this Alabama case has already been reviewed, has already been weighed in, by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court weighed in in June and issued a ruling upholding this lower court’s ruling, calling for this additional district that would give black Alabamians realistic opportunity to elect their preferred candidates for the US House. So it’s really an open question whether the Supreme Court would be willing to revisit this case again, and we’ll have to see what happens.

Laura Barron-Lopez (02:42):

Do Alabama Republicans think that somehow the outcome is going to be different when they take this back to the Supreme Court?

Hansi Lo Wang (02:50):

That’s what it looks like, based on their court filings, based on their multiple citations of this concurring opinion by Supreme Court Justice, Brett Kavanaugh, one of the two conservatives who joined the three liberal justices in upholding this lower court’s ruling earlier. And they are thinking, potentially, it looks like, that they could potentially flip the vote of Justice Kavanaugh and maybe get a different kind of ruling from the US Supreme Court about what this Alabama state legislature can do in this congressional map. Right now, the Supreme Court has ruled it needs to have an additional district.

Laura Barron-Lopez (03:26):

Now under the state’s proposed map, Alabama would keep its one current black majority district, which is represented by a Democratic member. How has this impacted black voters’ ability to be represented equally in that state?

Hansi Lo Wang (03:43):

This case, when we’re talking about redistricting, we’re talking about the power of each voter’s vote. And when there are section two violations under the Voting Rights Act, their voters of color, they can cast their ballots, but it may not mean much because the districts that they’re drawn into by mapmakers, oftentimes, state legislatures, really takes away their power. The results, the outcomes of the elections are essentially, predetermined. And so the question here is, what is the power of black voters in Alabama? And there’s a finding here that the power of black Alabamians is diminished, the voting power, that there should be at least two districts where black voters make up a majority or something close to it, black Alabamians, and so that they have a real shot at picking their preferred candidates to represent them in Congress. Right now, they don’t have that.

Laura Barron-Lopez (04:37):

And Alabama is not the only state that may need to add a majority black district to their map. There’s Louisiana and Georgia are also being confronted with voting rights violations. What implications could that have for 2024?

Hansi Lo Wang (04:54):

Right. There’s a trial going on right now in Georgia this week. There’s also a hearing coming up in Louisiana for that case. All congressional maps up in the air. And if the way things are playing out, continue the way they’re playing out, and the Supreme Court doesn’t change its mind about what it believes how section two of the Voting Rights Act should be interpreted, likely, there are going to be more majority black districts in the southern states in time for the 2024 elections, and that means those majority black districts are likely to elect Democrats. And so more democratic pickups could change who controls the US house after next year’s elections. The Republicans have a very thin majority right now, and so the Democrats could take back the House after 2024.

Laura Barron-Lopez (05:34):

Hansi Lo Wong of NPR, thank you so much for your time.

Hansi Lo Wang (05:38):

You’re very welcome.

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