New cartographer named for drawing state districts

Published 7:30 am Monday, August 7, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

A new map drawer has been named by three federal judges in the case a latest district map passed by the Alabama Legislature is rejected.

On Wednesday, the three-judge panel named David Ely as the court-appointed map drawer for the upcoming redistricting lawsuit hearing in federal court. If the map passed by Republicans two weeks ago is rejected, Ely and a court-ordered special master would draw a different congressional map ahead of the 2024 elections.

A new cartographer was needed for the hearing as the one selected previously has withdrawn. Both the State of Alabama and the plaintiffs, who took the state to court challenging the previous districts, submitted their candidates for the position. The judges agreed to use one of the plaintiff’s candidates.

In the court order, the three federal judges — Stanley Marcus, Anna Manasco, and Terry Moorer — said they conducted their own research into the candidates’ experience, noting that Ely has provided maps and consulting for legislative bodies in Texas, California, Utah, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Massachusetts, and Illinois. He also has previous experience as a special master in a redistricting case in Louisianna.

The special master will be Richard Allen, a former chief deputy attorney general in Alabama and former commissioner of the Alabama Department of Corrections.

The redrawn district map passed by legislators in July would have most of Covington County moving to District 1, currently represented by Jerry Carl, with the northeast corner of the county being in District 2, represented by Barry Moore.

Legislators were required to redraw the state’s congressional districts after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s 2022 ruling that Alabama’s current districts violate the Voting Rights Act. The Allen vs. Milligan lawsuit against the congressional map, which was passed in 2021, stated the map put much of the state’s Black voters into a single district (Dist. 7). In 2022, a three-judge panel agreed, ordering the state to draw new maps that “include either an additional majority-Black congressional district, or an additional district in which Black voters otherwise have an opportunity to elect a representative of their choice.” The panel said the map discriminated against Black voters who represent 25 percent of the state’s population but could only win elections in one of Alabama’s seven districts. The state challenged that ruling, which led to last month’s Supreme Court decision.

The latest version of the map was passed largely along party lines with Democrats stating it did not satisfy the court’s requirement to produce a second district where black voters could elect candidates of their choice.