Federal court says Alabama's congressional map disadvantages Black voters

Rep. Terri Sewell, a Democrat from Alabama, represents the state's only Black-majority district in Congress. She's pictured here alongside Rep. Joyce Beatty, a Democrat from Ohio, and Martin Luther King III, in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 17, 2022.

A panel of federal court judges has blocked Alabama’s new congressional map, drawn by Republican state lawmakers, from taking effect.

In an opinion released late Monday, the judges sided with plaintiffs, including the ACLU of Alabama and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), writing that under the map, “Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress.”

When crafting the maps last year, the GOP majority in the legislature drew just one majority Black district. But according to 2020 census state population counts, 27% of Alabama’s residents identify as Black. Therefore, the federal judges order that any map needs to include at least two Black-majority districts, “or something quite close to it.”

U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, a Democrat and the only Black member of Alabama’s congressional delegation, called the news “monumental.”

“Increasing political representation of Black Alabamians is exactly what John Lewis and the Foot Soldiers who marched across the bridge in my hometown of Selma fought for,” Sewell added.

State Attorney General Steve Marshall says he plans to petition the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court in the coming days. State lawmakers have until Feb. 11 to come up with a new plan.

Cody Short is WBHM’s local government & communities reporter.