A decision by the highest court in the land may soon have repercussions in the Black Belt after the United States Supreme Court upheld a decision that ruled Alabama’s congressional maps violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
Two consolidated cases, arising from a new congressional district map drawn by the Alabama Legislature after the 2020 census, were challenged by individual voters and the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP. Sen. Bobby Singleton of Greensboro was among the Plaintiffs.
The challengers argued that the map discriminated against Black voters, as it created only one district out of seven in the state where Black voters could elect a candidate of their choosing, despite Alabama’s population being more than a quarter African-American.
The decision has implications for Alabama’s 7th Congressional District, the state’s only majority-minority district, which spans from parts of Birmingham to Tuscaloosa to Montgomery and across most of the Black Belt region. That district includes all of Hale and Perry Counties.
For the past 31 years, the district has been the sole majority Black district in Alabama, and for 12 of those years, U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell has been its Representative. Sewell, a self-described “daughter of the Black Belt,” expressed her views on the future of her district, which is likely to be divided to create a second majority-minority district in the state, in a press conference following the decision on Thursday.
“It’s a small price to pay to carve up my district in order to be able to have two majority-minority districts,” Sewell said, acknowledging that the redrawing of the map could result in Birmingham and Selma no longer being included in the same district. Despite this, she expressed a commitment to continue representing the 7th Congressional District, whatever its boundaries may be after the redistricting .
Sewell voiced concerns about the potential impact on rural Alabama, saying, “But in order to create another district where minority voters can actually choose their representation, that would require breaking up the Black Belt. I’ve always been concerned about that because I think it’s really important that rural America — rural Alabama — gets strong and fair representation as well. Progress demands that you make sacrifices.”
While the timeline for the new congressional maps is unclear, Sewell said she anticipates that a finalized version could be ready for the 2024 election, if not sooner. She also urged for swift action, indicating that there could be serious implications for misrepresented Alabamians if the process is delayed.
This landmark decision could have repercussions beyond the Black Belt. Other states, like Louisiana, which also have only one majority-minority district, may have to reassess their maps as well.