NRF Supporting Plaintiffs in Section 2 Lawsuits in Georgia, Louisiana, and Alabama
National Redistricting Foundation Supports Legal Challenges Filed by Citizens of Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana Harmed by Voting Rights Act Violations
The Lawsuit Allege Congressional Districts Violate the Voting Rights Act
Washington, D.C. -- Today, groups of citizens in Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana are suing their states over congressional districts that violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The litigation in these states is being supported by the National Redistricting Foundation (NRF), a 501(c)(3) affiliate of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC). The lawsuits seek valid congressional maps that unite African Americans to form an additional majority-minority congressional district in each state thereby allowing African Americans an equal opportunity in each state to elect their candidates of choice.
In Alabama, the complaint alleges that S.B. 484, the redistricting bill passed by the state legislature in 2011, carefully distributed African American voters between four districts, diluting African American voting strength and confining African American voting power to one majority-minority district. S.B. 484 illegally “packs” voters into the Seventh Congressional District (CD 7) and “cracks” voters among Congressional Districts 1, 2, and 3.
In Georgia, the complaint alleges that H.B. 20EX, the redistricting bill passed by the Georgia General Assembly in 2011, has diluted African American voting strength and denied African American voters in Georgia an equal opportunity to elect their candidates of choice in or around the Twelfth Congressional District (CD 12).
In Louisiana, the complaint alleges that Act 2, the redistricting bill passed by the Louisiana legislature in 2011, limited minority voting strength and political influence by packing African American voters into the Second Congressional District (CD 2) and cracking them among Congressional Districts 5 and 6.
“The partisan placement of African Americans into inappropriately drawn electoral districts in Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana unlawfully dilutes their voting strength,” said Eric H. Holder, Jr., the 82nd Attorney General of the United States. “The current maps are clear violations of the Voting Rights Act that deny African Americans the equal opportunity to elect their candidates of choice. The creation of additional districts in which African Americans have the opportunity to elect their preferred candidates in each of these states will be an important step toward making the voting power of African Americans more equal and moving us closer to the ideals of our representative democracy.”
“The National Redistricting Foundation is committed to fighting for people’s voting rights and working to end the discriminatory practice of vote dilution,” said Kelly Ward, Executive Director of the National Redistricting Foundation.
“I’ve dedicated my life to protecting and ensuring equal voting rights for African-Americans, especially in Georgia,” said Congressman John Lewis, who represents Georgia’s 5th Congressional District. “Although we’ve come a long way, there’s more work to be done to ensure all of our voices are heard at the ballot box. To have a truly representative congressional delegation, the people of Georgia have a clear right to another majority-minority district.”
“The right to have one's vote fully count is fundamental,” said Benard Simelton Sr., President of the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP. “I fully support this lawsuit in my state because voters of color in Alabama deserve the same representation in the House of Representatives that is given to every other citizen in the country. This is a giant step in the fight for a truly representative democracy both in Alabama and in the United States.”
“When I moved back to Louisiana in 2014, I committed myself to seriously fighting for the civil rights of everyone in this state,” said Kristen Smith, a local organizer and plaintiff in the case. “One more majority-minority district means a stronger voice not just for our cities but the rural communities that Black Louisianans call home. We deserve full representation in Congress and I have faith the National Redistricting Foundation's support will get us there.”
“It is an honor to be in this fight for the voting rights of African Americans in Louisiana,” said elementary school teacher and plaintiff Allan Rogers, “who have been left without a chance to elect someone who can truly represent us. As we move forward to make sure we are all properly represented, I hope everyone sees it is possible to build a bridge of communication and access to one of Louisiana’s forgotten areas. A congressional map that truly represents the people of this state and nation is only the first step, but it is an undeniably important one.”
Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act prohibits any “standard, practice, or procedure” that “results in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.” Given the population and voting patterns in Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana, the state legislatures were required to create an additional district in each state in which African Americans would have the opportunity to elect their candidates of choice.
In Alabama, S.B. 484 moved African Americans from majority-white districts into CD 7, increasing the Black Voting Age Population (“BVAP”) from 58.33 percent to 60.91 percent. By packing more African Americans into CD 7, the state legislature diluted African Americans' voting power and prevented the creation of a second majority-minority district.
The complaint outlines the sordid history of racial discrimination and marginalization of the African American community in Alabama. Through poll taxes, Jim Crow laws, and discriminatory voter ID laws, the state of Alabama has a long history, from the post-Civil War era right up to the present decade, of infringing upon the rights of African Americans to participate equally in the political process. The state’s history of discrimination has adversely affected African Americans in areas such as education, employment, income, criminal justice, and access to health care. Although African Americans make up 27 percent of the state’s population, none of the officials elected to statewide office is currently African American.
As of 2010, minorities accounted for over 80 percent of the state’s total population growth. During redistricting in 2011, rather than providing African American voters in or around CD 12 with an opportunity to elect their preferred candidates, the state legislature removed African American voters in Savannah, while adding white voters from Richmond County and Columbia County to the north. This reduced the BVAP in CD 12 from 41.5 percent to 33.3 percent. The plan then dispersed geographically compact African American communities into surrounding Congressional Districts 1, 8, and 10, leaving those districts with respective BVAPs of 28.9 percent, 28.5 percent, and 24.1 percent. This diluted African American voting strength in or around CD 12, denying those voters an equal opportunity to participate in the political process.
The complaint outlines Georgia’s history of racial discrimination against African Americans, and the state’s numerous attempts to deny African American voters an equal opportunity to participate in the political process. This disenfranchisement dates back to the post-Civil War era, when African Americans were denied the right to hold office and African Americans who attempted to vote encountered intense and frequently violent opposition.
As of 2010, African Americans make up nearly 32.6 percent of the Louisiana population, giving the state the second-highest percentage of African Americans in the country. In Louisiana, however, there is only a single majority-minority congressional district. Act 2 packed African American voters into CD 2, while splitting other African American voters in contiguous parishes between CD 5 and CD 6, thereby diluting their voting power. Given how the lines were drawn, CD 2 has a BVAP of 59.7 percent, while CD 5 and CD 6 have BVAPs of 33.7 percent and 21.5 percent, respectively. There are enough African Americans in Louisiana in geographically compact areas to form a second majority-minority district in the state.
The complaint outlines Louisiana’s history of racial discrimination and disenfranchisement of the African American community. Following the Civil War, the state government of Louisiana used poll taxes, “Grandfather Clauses”, Jim Crow laws, and other discriminatory tactics to depress African American voting rights and turnout. Following passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Louisiana still persisted in its efforts to limit African American voting power, including through redistricting, voter ID laws, and felon disenfranchisement. Louisiana also has a history of political candidates making both overt and subtle racial appeals.