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Hypothetical House district map without black Democratic district.

I have a question about a hypothetical gerrymander that has not happened and probably won't. Let's say Alabama's GOP decides during redistricting to draw out the majority black area. (See how multiple districts cut through the Black Belt? That is done on purpose to dilute the black vote to the point that it is not effective enough to win the election.) This is done in this scenario to prevent Doug Jones from winning a seat in the federal House of Representatives should he win the primary and pursue his idea. (In this hypothetical scenario, he says he will run in what was the Black Belt district in 2026.) One of the people on the redistricting panel has a relationship with Roy Moore, and wants to get revenge on his surprise narrow victory in the Senate in a closely watched special election. I heard this type of gerrymander is illegal under the remaining parts of the Voting Rights Act. Is that true? Or, is it a gray area because the Supreme Court said partisan gerrymandering is not unconstutional? I say that because doing it in a different way is extremely difficult or impossible in this type of state. This map is probably a little different because Alabama may have six seats. It is not clear how it will change because it looks on the border of losing seats.

Note: I'm from the Northeast US and don't have a secret tip on this happening.

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    It should be, since the intention is to deliberately disenfranchise voters based on Race, but ultimately it would probably end up at the Supreme Court, and who knows how they'd end up ruling
    – divibisan
    May 26, 2020 at 23:39
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    Country specific tags should be used for all country specific questions, not just countries outside of the United States.
    – Golden Cuy
    May 27, 2020 at 0:19
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    Wikipedia has a reasonable amount of info on racial gerrymandering: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – Golden Cuy
    May 27, 2020 at 3:08
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    Your question title says, "this hypothetical gerrymander," but how is does your example differ, in principle or in law, from any other example? Diluting the vote of a certain class or group of citizens who threaten the party in power is the entire point of gerrymandering. May 27, 2020 at 14:14
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    I don't think there's anything specific about this hypothetical gerrymander. Whether or not it's legal would be judged based on the same (relatively subjective) criteria of any gerrymander
    – divibisan
    May 27, 2020 at 15:21

1 Answer 1

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Maybe

The problem is what constitutes a "good gerrymander" from a "bad" one. Here's the current AL map (from Wikipedia, link-only due to keeping the original size). What you'll note is that the districts are rather oddly shaped as-is. Montgomery itself is carved into three congressional districts, and Birmingham into two. District 7 (which is predominantly black) is a D+20 district in an otherwise deeply Republican state (no other district is less than R+15).

In the redraw of the question, we see only District 3 get spared any major changes. But District 7 is carved up into 1, 4 and 6. There is a case to be made that such a map is designed to disenfranchise.

The US Supreme Court ruled that partisan gerrymandering challenges were off-limits for Federal courts

"We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts," Chief Justice Roberts wrote for the conservative majority. "Federal judges have no license to reallocate political power between the two major political parties, with no plausible grant of authority in the Constitution, and no legal standards to limit and direct their decisions."

Roberts noted that excessive partisanship in the drawing of districts does lead to results that "reasonably seem unjust," but he said that does not mean it is the court's responsibility to find a solution.

You could challenge it in that state's courts. That's what happened in North Carolina

Three Superior Court judges overturned the state’s current political maps as unconstitutional on Tuesday. They had been drawn in 2017 to replace different maps the Republican-led legislature also drew, in 2011, after those had also been ruled unconstitutional. The ruling doesn’t affect the maps for North Carolina’s 13 U.S. House seats, which survived a separate legal challenge earlier this summer at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Alabama's Supreme Court is elected and is entirely made up of Republicans. It seems unlikely they would overturn something enacted by a Republican legislature and signed by a Republican governor.

The Department of Justice could possibly go at it from the angle of the Voting Rights Act

Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, a change affecting voting, such as a redistricting plan, may not be used by a covered jurisdiction unless that jurisdiction can show that the change has neither a discriminatory purpose nor will have a discriminatory effect. This can be done in one of two ways. The jurisdiction can file an action in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. As an alternative, the change can be submitted to the Attorney General for administrative review.

It's unclear how successful that would be.

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  • That is what I thought. It might be legal or it might be illegal. I don't think they would want to test this even if they really did have a grudge against Doug Jones and were paranoid. May 27, 2020 at 19:00
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    I don't see Jones running for AL-7 unless the current holder retires. Although that might be a possibility
    – Machavity
    May 27, 2020 at 19:02
  • That's true. I thought it was a possibility but just used that for the purpose of making a realistic plot. If Sewell retires soon, then it might happen. But I don't see the Republicans there taking such a risk in districting it out. May 27, 2020 at 19:26

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