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Judges maintain order for Alabama to draw new districts

January 28, 2022 GMT

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A three-judge panel on Thursday refused to stay its decision that effectively orders Alabama to draw new congressional districts before the 2022 elections and to create a second district of which Black voters are a sizeable portion of the population.

The panel denied Alabama’s request to put a preliminary injunction on hold as the state appeals the decision. In a sometimes strongly worded ruling, the judges reiterated findings they believe show the current map likely violates the Voting Rights Act and that demographic shifts merit the creation of a second district — instead of this one — with a substantial number of minority voters.

The judges wrote they are “aware that the preliminary injunction is consequential” but said it was necessary.

“We discern no basis for a finding that this case is the extraordinary case in which we must allow an election to proceed under a map that we have determined — on the basis of a substantial evidentiary record — very likely violates the Voting Rights Act,” the judges wrote.

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A spokesman said the Alabama attorney general’s office did not have a comment on the ruling.

Alabama is currently represented by one Black Democrat elected from the state’s only majority-Black district and white Republicans elected from heavily white districts. About 27% of the state’s population is Black.

The three-judge panel said it was a “red herring” for the state to argue the current districts are lawful because they resemble long-used districts.

“The argument also ignores the obvious reality that as maps age, demographic changes may eventually turn a lawful map into an unlawful map,” the judges wrote.

Alabama Black population rose from 25.26% of the population in the 1990 census to 27.1% of the population in the 2020 census. At the same time, the white population dropped from 73.65% of the population in the 1990 census to 63.12% of the population in the 2020.

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 Judge Anna Manasco and U.S. District Judge Terry Moorer.