Alabama congressional redistricting: Plaintiffs, state nominate new cartographers

By: - July 31, 2023 6:57 am
The U.S. Capitol, with a rotunda and wings for the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate, silhouetted against a clear blue sky.

The United States Capitol on April 4, 2023. (Jennifer Shutt/States Newsroom)

Plaintiffs and the attorneys for the state Friday filed a list of proposed cartographers to potentially draw new congressional districts in Alabama. 

The three judges overseeing the case asked for recommendations after the previous cartographer, Nathaniel Persiley, a Stanford University School of Law, withdrew from the case on Monday. Both parties were asked to recommend between three and five cartographers by Friday.

The court in January 2022 ruled that Alabama’s 2021 congressional map violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by packing Black voters into a single congressional district, and ordered the state to draw new maps with a second congressional district with a majority-Black district or “something quite close to it.” The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ruling last month


The Alabama Legislature on July 21 approved a Republican-backed map that included a single majority-Black congressional district and a district with 40% Black population. Republicans said the map gave Black voters an opportunity to elect the representatives of their choosing. Democrats said it failed to address the court’s guidelines.  If the court finds the map unsatisfactory, it could order a third party, known as a special master, to draw new maps. A cartographer would be part of the process. 

A hearing on the proposal is scheduled for August 14.

Here are the cartographers recommended in Friday court filings:

Plaintiffs’ recommendations

Bruce Cain is a professor of political science at Stanford University. He has previously served as a redistricting consultant, most recently in 2011 for Maryland’s Attorney General’s Office. In 2002, he was the special master for a three-judge panel in Arizona’s legislative redistricting.

David Ely is the president of Compass Demographics. In 2021, the city of Fullerton, CA hired him to help with the redistricting process. In 2019, he served as the appointed special master in Louisiana’s redistricting. Ely declined to comment on Sunday.

Bernard Grofman is a professor of political science at UC Irvine. He has published numerous articles on redistricting, including a 2021 article on the impact of the Voting Rights Act. He was appointed as a special master by the Virginia Supreme Court in 2021.

Justin Levitt is a professor at the Loyola Marymount University, Loyola Law School. From 2021-2022, he served as the Senior Policy Advisor for Democracy and Voting Rights at the White House. He has previously worked as the Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. He founded the “All About Redistricting” website. Levitt declined comment Friday, citing the pending litigation.

Charles Stewart III is a professor of political science at MIT. His research and teaching includes elections. He is currently the MIT co-director of the CalTech/ MIT Voting Technology Project, which studies the election process in hopes of avoiding a repeat of the 2000 election.

State’s recommendations

James Gimpel is a professor in the University of Maryland Department of Government and Politics. He has written expert reports for several voting and redistricting cases, including North Carolina, Arizona and California. He has published articles that relate to the importance of communities of interest.

Thomas Brunell is a professor of political science at the University of Texas, Dallas. In 2008, Brunell published a book arguing that electoral competition is bad for America, and districts should be drawn overwhelmingly for one party. A message was left with Brunell Friday afternoon.

Louis Hines is manager of Demographic Research Services at Alabama State University’s Center for Leadership and Public Policy.

Douglas M. Johnson is president of the National Demographics Corporation. He has served on and researched independent and advisory redistricting commissions. He has previously served as an expert witness on litigation involving the Voting Rights Act.



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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.