Gov. Kay Ivey calls special session to redraw Alabama’s congressional maps

The expected special session comes after the Supreme Court decision earlier this month

By: - June 27, 2023 10:35 am
Gov. Kay Ivey at a podium speaking

Gov. Kay Ivey delivers the State of the State address on March 7, 2023 in the Old House Chamber of the Alabama State Capitol. (Stew Milne for Alabama Reflector)

Gov. Kay Ivey will call the Alabama Legislature into a special session on July 17 to draw new congressional maps, as ordered by federal courts.

The widely-expected decision comes a few weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that congressional maps approved by the Legislature in 2022 violated the Voting Rights Act by packing Black voters into a single district. The nation’s high court upheld a lower court order that said the remedy would be a second majority-Black congressional district or something close to it.

It is critical that Alabama be fairly and accurately represented in Washington,” wrote Ivey in a tweet. “Our Legislature knows our state better than the federal courts do.”

Benard Simelton, president of the Alabama NAACP, said they were supportive of the plaintiffs’ plan to make two new congressional districts with substantial Black populations.

“That is in line with what the Supreme Court, guidance that the Supreme Court gave and, so, we’re in support of that,” he said Tuesday.

A three-judge panel has set a July 21 deadline for the Legislature to develop new maps. July 17 is the last possible day for the session to begin to meet the court’s deadline.

If lawmakers cannot decide on maps by the deadline, or if the court considers them inadequate, the maps will be drawn by a special master appointed by the court.

The deadline is decided by fall registration deadlines. Under Alabama law, candidates for the 2024 election must qualify by Nov. 10. Political parties must also file a resolution stating the method by which delegates are going to be selected by their respective primaries by Nov. 10. The parties must certify their candidates by Dec. 10 and absentee ballots, under federal law, be transmitted to identified voters by Jan. 2024.

The July 21 deadline was pursued by the plaintiffs with the arguments of briefs on both sides and time for a hearing on Aug. 14. The court also told the intervening defendants to provide status reports on July 7 and July 14.

The 2021 congressional map had a single majority-minority district in Birmingham and the western Black Belt, currently represented by U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham. The plaintiffs in the Milligan case argued the map packed Black voters into a single district and made it impossible, thanks to Alabama’s racially polarized voting, for Black voters outside the district to form alliances with like-minded white voters and participate meaningfully in the political process.

Alabama had argued that the map was “race neutral,” which was in line with the law.

In a 5-4 ruling earlier this month, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that Alabama had violated Section 2 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

“A district is not equally open … when minority voters face—unlike their majority peers—bloc voting along racial lines, arising against the backdrop of substantial racial discrimination within the State, that renders a minority vote unequal to a vote by a nonminority voter,” he wrote.

Lawmakers are scheduled to begin meetings on new maps Tuesday afternoon.

Updated at 10:59 a.m. with additional background and at 12:06 p.m with comment from Benard Simelton of the Alabama NAACP. 

2023 special session

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Jemma Stephenson
Jemma Stephenson

Jemma Stephenson covers education as a reporter for the Alabama Reflector. She previously worked at the Montgomery Advertiser and graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.