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Lawmakers approve new court-ordered congressional maps

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(The Center Square) — The Alabama Legislature approved a new redistricting plan on Friday that doesn’t create a new Black-majority district for the 2024 congressional elections amid Democrat objections.

Lawmakers finished their work in the special session to meet a Friday deadline to draw a map with seven new congressional districts. Republicans say it will meet the requirements of a court order requiring lawmakers to draw new maps.

The new map was passed 24-6 in the Senate and 74-28 in the House and is now headed to Gov. Kay Ivey for a possible signature.

In a conference committee, the House agreed to a new Senate plan, named after its sponsor, Sen. Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro, that would retain the minority-majority 7th district with slightly different boundaries than the previous map.

The Senate’s plan would retain the 7th district, but the boundaries would be slightly different, with all of Conecuh County in the district. The 2nd District will have a Black population of nearly 40%, while the 7th has a Black population of 55.39%.

“This is the best map we could negotiate with the other body,” said House Speaker Pro Tempore Chris Pringle, R-Mobile, when asked about the rejection of his plan during House debate.

Democrats on the House floor said the Livingston plan was in some ways worse than the original House plan authored by Pringle.

“The courts are the only way that Black people can get gains in the state of Alabama,” said Rep. Napoleon Bracy, D-Mobile, during debate. “It’s always if somebody else has to make us in this body do something right.”

A compromise with the House plan was reached when it came to Etowah County in northeast Alabama, which will now be totally in the 3rd district after being split with the 4th in the original Senate plan.

On June 8, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in Allen v. Milligan that said Alabama’s previously-drawn map was in violation of the Voting Rights Act and ordered new maps that create an “opportunity district” for minority voters to cast ballots for the candidates of their choice.

Livingston said during the conference committee that the new map had “better numbers” than his previous map on compactness and “communities of interest,” such as keeping together Mobile and Baldwin counties in a single congressional district. He also said the Black population of the 1st District, which includes Mobile, Baldwin, Escambia and Covington counties will be nearly 40%.

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