A three-judge federal court today asked plaintiffs who claim Alabama’s legislative districts are racially gerrymandered if they could draw a new plan that would strike the delicate balance of protecting majority black districts while not using race as the main factor. Presiding Judge Bill Pryor called that the “$64,000 question” during today’s hearing in the technical, complex case sent back to the three-judge court by the U.S. Supreme Court. The case concerns Alabama’s 140 legislative districts, redrawn by a Republican-led Legislature in 2012, as is done after after 10-year census. The plan was used in last year’s elections.
The plan did not reduce the number of majority black districts from the previous maps — 27 in the House and eight in the Senate. But the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus, the Alabama Democratic Conference and others sued to challenge the plan, saying it packed too many blacks into those majority black districts, reducing their influence in other districts. They also claimed the plan unnecessarily split counties.
Today, in response to Pryor’s questions, lawyers for the plaintiffs said they could come up with a district plan that protects minority districts without making race predominant over other redistricting principles, such as keeping counties and precincts intact and keeping incumbents in separate districts.