Voters, civil rights, and faith groups joined together to file two lawsuits against Alabama’s new state legislature and congressional district maps Monday.
The civil rights groups involved include the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense Fund (NAACP LDF), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Alabama, and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The first lawsuit focuses on the congressional districts included in HB 1. The second lawsuit focuses on districts for the Alabama Senate and Alabama House of Representatives in HB 2 and SB 1.
Both lawsuits make similar accusations. They contend that the newly drawn districts intentionally use race to dilute the impact of minority votes. According to the lawsuit, Alabama has used the traditional gerrymandering tactics of “packing” and “cracking” to achieve the result. “Packing” refers to the process of including as many voters as possible of a particular demographic into one or more districts. “Cracking” refers to strategically breaking up voters to diminish their ability to impact an election. Both strategies can severely diminish representation.
The lawsuits recount the facts behind the drawing of the district, as well as the history of racial gerrymandering in the state. They both contend that the new districts violate the Fourteenth Amendment. The suit over HB1 also claims that the districts violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which bars certain forms of vote dilution. Both suits ask that the court enjoin the state from using the districts in upcoming elections. Further, they ask that the court set a deadline for the state to enact different and compliant district maps.
While lawmakers remain confident that the maps will stand, the lawsuits will test the extent to which courts will choose to intervene on racial gerrymandering claims.