A federal court on Thursday ordered Alabama to use a new congressional map that could lead the state to elect two Black representatives for the first time in its history by creating a second district with close to a majority of Black voters.
The order, the culmination of a nearly two-year fight over the Republican-dominated state’s illegal dilution of Black voting power, could also lead to Democrats picking up another seat at a moment when control of the House of Representatives hinges on a thin conservative margin.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama signed off on a map that increases the percentage of Black voters in one of the state’s six majority-white congressional districts to 48.7 percent, up from about 30 percent, while preserving the state’s lone existing majority-Black district.
The plan, one of three options crafted by an independent special master, “completely remedies the vote dilution we found and satisfies all applicable federal constitutional and statutory requirements,” the panel wrote.
Alabama, a state with a fraught history of bucking federal voting rights and civil rights law until intervention from the courts, had resisted creating a second district where Black voters had the ability to elect a representative of their choice. More than one in four residents of Alabama are Black, but six of the state’s seven congressional districts have long been held by white Republicans.
The state’s defiance led the Supreme Court to weigh in twice this year, both times siding with the lower court’s ruling that Alabama had violated a landmark voting rights law by undercutting the power of Black voters in the state.
“It did not have to be this way,” the panel wrote in its ruling Thursday. “And it would not have been this way if the Legislature had created a second opportunity district or majority-minority district.”
Wes Allen, Alabama’s secretary of state, said his office would implement the map “forced upon Alabama” for the 2024 election cycle, though he signaled the state would continue to appeal use of the map afterward.
“It is important for all Alabamians to know that the legal portion of this process has not yet been completed,” Mr. Allen said in a statement.