Supreme Court decision could effect local districts

Published 5:58 pm Saturday, June 24, 2023

The Supreme Court handed down a decision on June 8, finding Alabama’s congressional map may violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The map was drawn by state lawmakers after the 2020 census, laying out a plan for districts to elect representatives to the legislature’s seven House seats. Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion declined arguments against challenging congressional and state legislative maps believed to put minority voters at a disadvantage.

“The Supreme Court rightfully determined that Alabama’s election maps were illegally drawn because they attempted to suppress the influence of the state’s Black voters,” American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) National President Everett Kelley said. 

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Lawmakers will have to move quickly to comply with the order and draw new congressional districts before the 2024 elections. Voters in Butler, Lowndes, and Crenshaw County could be impacted by the court’s decision.

According to Crenshaw County Probate Judge Will Tate, changes impacting residents are possible for Congressman Barry Moore’s district, but county officials do not yet know what that could look like.

“We may see changes to Congressman Moore’s district,” Tate said. “Right now, we just don’t know.”

Crenshaw County Commissioner Raymond McGough said the county redistricted prior to the 2022 election to accommodate population shifts. The commission said he was not aware of plans to redistrict soon.

“We recently redistricted, before the last election, but that was only because District 1 had gained around 800 people and District 2 had lost 400 people,” McGough said.

A request for comments from Butler County Commissioners was not immediately returned, but representatives with the County said they have not yet heard whether redistricting will be required.

The case, Allen, Alabama Secretary of State, ET AL. v Milligan ET AL, alleged the district plan used for 2022 congressional elections, alleged the map’s districts were unevenly distributed across the state, putting minority voters in a position of disadvantage.

“As a Black man and a native of Alabama, I understand all too well the impact that these discriminatory voting maps have had on elections and policies in the state,” Kelley said. “Similar discriminatory practices are playing out in other states across the South as well due to these heavily gerrymandered voting maps.”

According to court records, an Alabama District Court required the state to refrain from using the plan, finding it likely violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The Supreme Court stayed the decision pending further investigation, but now affirms the lower court’s decision.

“We find Alabama’s new approach to [Section 2] compelling neither in theory nor in practice,” Roberts wrote. “We accordingly decline to recast our [Section 2] case law as Alabama requests.”

Lowndes County registrars report roughly 1,000 voters impacted by the decision, but according to Registrar Dianne Russell, that number will be reduced by voters who are no longer eligible to vote.

Russell is in the process of identifying voters who will be redistricted and will send notices to those individuals. According to Probate Judge Lashandra Myrick, voters will receive notices in the mail and results will be published prior to the next election.

“There are a lot of changes being made,” Myrick said. “I have asked [the registrars] to make sure each voter that is affected by notarized.

“Unless and until one person’s vote counts just as equally as the next person’s, regardless of race or nationality or any other personal characteristic, we will never have true democracy in this country,” Kelley said.