North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

December 20, 2013

Federal judges rule that state legislative district lines don't violate Voting Rights Act

By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News

MONTGOMERY — A special panel of three federal judges has ruled that Alabama's legislative district boundaries do not run afoul of the Voting Rights Act.

The judges ruled 2-1 in favor of the boundaries, which were redrawn in 2011 to reflect population changes that resulted from the 2010 U.S. Census. The boundaries were pre-cleared by the U.S. Department of Justice at Attorney General Luther Strange's behest shortly after the legislature approved them.

Lawsuits were filed by the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus and the Alabama Democratic Conference, in which they claimed the new boundaries unfairly discriminated against minorities. The panel of judges held a seven-day trial in August, and handed down a voluminous opinion on Friday.

Strange hailed the decision in a statement. "I have believed from the beginning of this process that Alabama complied with all legal and constitutional requirements in adopting the new district lines, and I am pleased that the court agreed with our position that the new legislative districts are consistent with federal law," he said.

The latest redistricting process was the first since the Alabama State Legislature switched to a Republican majority. The process, which occurs after each census, has been subject to federal scrutiny under the Voting Rights Act since the law was enacted in 1965. The pre-clearance process that Strange requested has been largely done away with, after the U.S. Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional earlier this year in Shelby County v. Holder, in which the court said that the data used for pre-clearance was useless because it was more than 40 years old.