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Khadidah Stone, et al. v. Wes Allen, et al.

In 2021, Alabama lawmakers enacted a new district map for the Alabama state Senate that significantly diminishes the power of the state’s Black voters. The Southern Poverty Law Center and its co-counsel filed a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s discriminatory Senate map.

The lawsuit seeks two additional majority-Black state Senate districts. It describes how Alabama’s new state Senate map denies Black voters an equal opportunity to participate in the political process, which violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Plaintiffs include Greater Birmingham Ministries, Alabama State Conference of the NAACP and voters Khadidah Stone and Evan Milligan.

The plaintiffs argue that the map impermissibly dilutes the voting strength of Alabama’s Black voters by unnecessarily packing them into state Senate District 26 in Montgomery to avoid drawing another reasonably configured majority Black district. The lawsuit also describes how the state unnecessarily “cracked” and diluted the strength of Black voters in Huntsville by dispersing them among three districts instead of drawing them into one reasonably configured majority-Black district.

The plaintiffs argue that myriad factors – including Alabama’s racially polarized voting patterns and Alabama’s history of discrimination in voting – establish that the new map violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by preventing Alabama’s Black voters from having an equal opportunity to elect their preferred candidates.

Legislative districts – drawn as part of a once-in-a-decade redistricting process triggered by the 2020 census data – determine the allocation of political power and access to resources at every level of government for the next 10 years. The lawsuit describes Alabama’s “sordid record” when it comes to redistricting. In five of the six redistricting cycles since 1960, the U.S. Department of Justice or federal courts found that Alabama’s political districts – congressional, state legislative or both – violated the rights of voters under the U.S. Constitution or the Voting Rights Act. After the last redistricting in 2010, a federal court struck down 12 legislative districts as unconstitutional racial gerrymanders.

On Feb. 13, 2024, a federal district court judge denied a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The denial was noteworthy because it rejected an emerging legal argument threatening voting rights: the belief that private citizens cannot sue under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The court’s order roundly rejected the argument, preserving an important tool for citizens to defend voting rights. A trial date has been set for late 2024.