A federal court ordered Alabama to adopt a new congressional redistricting map with a second Black opportunity district on Thursday, the latest development in the protracted battle between the courts and Alabama Republicans over the political lines in the state.
Opportunity districts are seats where Black voters have good chances at electing the representatives of their choice. The ruling is also a win for Democrats, who are expected to win the seat next year.
Alabama is more than 26% Black, but state Republicans repeatedly drew maps so that just one of the state’s seven congressional seats would be majority-Black — even after a federal court and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against them.
In September, the federal court hired a special master to draw several drafts of the state’s political boundaries, after refusing to accept their latest map with just one Black district.
On Thursday, the court selected “Remedial Plan 3,” because, according to the order, it satisfied “all constitutional and statutory requirements while hewing as closely as reasonably possible to the Alabama Legislature’s 2023 Plan.” The legislators and secretary of state also “indicated that it is less objectionable” than another proposed plan.
The two Black seats are Alabama’s 2nd and 7th congressional districts.
Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District, which is represented by Rep. Barry Moore, a Republican who won the seat by 40 percentage points, will likely be picked up by Democrats in the next election. According to Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman, the new seat would have elected Joe Biden by 12 points. It is considered an opportunity seat because the Black voting-age population is 48.7%, according to the court order.
Rep. Terri Sewell, a Democrat, is the only Black member of Congress from Alabama. She represents the 7th District, where 51.9% of the voting-age population is Black under the new plan.
Alabama Secretary of State Wes Allen said in a statement Thursday that “the map the federal court has forced upon Alabama” would be used in 2024, but that the state would continue to appeal.
“It is important for all Alabamians to know that the legal portion of this process has not yet been completed. A full hearing on the redistricting issue will take place in the future,” he said.
Jane C. Timm is a senior reporter for NBC News.