A three-judge federal court panel has blocked Alabama from using in next year’s elections 12 legislative districts challenged as unconstitutional by black political groups. The districts are part of the district map drawn and approved by the Republican-led Alabama Legislature after the 2010 Census and were used in the 2014 election. The judges ruled for the plaintiffs on 12 of the 36 districts in dispute and enjoined the state from using those district lines again. The court ruled in favor of the state on the other 24 districts that were challenged. All 140 seats in the Alabama Legislature will be up for election next year. One of the three judges, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson, issued a separate order dissenting, in part, from the other two judges, Circuit Judge Bill Pryor and Chief District Judge Keith Watkins.
Thompson agreed on the 12 districts that were found unconstitutional but also found that 12 of the other 24 were unconstitutional.
In the main opinion today, Pryor wrote that lawmakers faced a difficult job in balancing the requirement not to reduce the number of districts where a majority of voters are black with the prohibition against making race the primary factor in drawing the lines.
The state Constitution requires the Legislature to redraw legislative districts after every 10-year census.