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Alabama redraws congressional map after Supreme Court rejects its current map


Today marks the end of a weeklong special session of the Alabama legislature, and lawmakers there have produced a redrawn congressional map. The special session follows a Supreme Court ruling that said the state's current map likely violates key portions of the Voting Rights Act. A new district in Alabama could represent a challenge to the slim Republican majority in the U.S. House. Troy Public Radio's Kyle Gassiott has been following the heated debate, and he joins us now from the state house in Montgomery. Hey there.


FLORIDO: So Kyle, can you remind us - why was Alabama's original congressional map rejected by the Supreme Court?

GASSIOTT: Well, the court said that, according to the Voting Rights Act, Alabama had not given the state's Black voters an opportunity to elect the candidate of their choice. Alabama has seven congressional districts, Adrian, and currently only one of those districts is one where Black voters make up a majority. One in 4 residents in Alabama is Black, so the plaintiffs in the case claim that at least another congressional district should be a Black-majority district. And the court sided with the plaintiffs against Alabama and sent them back to the map drawing board, so to speak.

FLORIDO: So the debate over the new maps has maybe predictably fallen along party lines, with Republicans wanting to preserve the current map as much as possible but Democrats seeing an opportunity with a new district to pick up another seat in the U.S. House. What has that debate been like?

GASSIOTT: Well, Adrian, as you might imagine, it has been contentious here. Democrats have been very hopeful after the ruling was announced, and Republicans were not. So when Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, who is a Republican, announced the session, she sent a not-so-subtle message when she said, our legislature knows our state, our people and our districts better than the federal courts or activist groups do. And currently, Adrian, Republicans hold a supermajority in both the House and the Senate. So they've really been in charge of this process since the very beginning.

FLORIDO: So what types of maps have been proposed this week?

GASSIOTT: Well, not surprisingly, Democrats put forward maps that create a second Black majority district. The court said the state could create a second district that was majority Black or something close to it, and Republicans are clearly planning to test the court on what close to it means. The map the Republicans have settled on for a second district has a percentage of 40% rather than 50% or more of Black voters. Again, it's their interpretation of the court's language calling for more opportunity for Black voters.

But Adrian, this morning in the Senate, you could really hear the exasperation in Minority Leader Bobby Singleton's voice as he challenged the idea that these maps really create an opportunity.


BOBBY SINGLETON: That's a real example from the state of Alabama because we believe that diversity is good. Everybody should have a voice. And we can be through with this, but we got to go through all of this just to have a voice in 2023.

FLORIDO: So Kyle, once the legislature is done with the map, what happens then?

GASSIOTT: Adrian, the map next moves to a federal court that issued the original ruling. That court will review it. And if they reject it, they have the option to ask an independent special master to redraw yet another map. And that map could be challenged and end up again before the Supreme Court. And all of this is being closely watched by the major parties because control of the U.S. House could be at stake.

FLORIDO: I've been speaking with Troy Public Radio's Kyle Gassiott, joining us from Montgomery, Ala. Thanks, Kyle.

GASSIOTT: Thank you, Adrian. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Kyle Gassiott