Court picks Alabama congressional map likely to mean Democratic gain

Alabama’s new congressional map, adopted by a federal court on Tuesday and likely to mean Democratic gains in the state’s congressional delegation, took shape after almost a year of complicated legal wrangling and partisan rancor.

The new six-district map, ordered by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals after a lawsuit from African-American activists, replaces the current seven districts for the state, four of which are solidly held by Republicans.

The new map combines the heavily gerrymandered 7th District that was previously held by hard-right Republican Rep. Martha Roby with the heavily African-American 5th District, which had been held by another Republican, Rep. Mo Brooks.

The new map could well result in a Democratic pickup in that 5th District, which is expected to be decided in a competitive November election.

The new map also splits the state’s heavily Republican 2nd District in two, leaving Republican Rep. Barry Moore to compete with any number of Republican challengers in the primary to represent the new, more compact, more Republican district.

Meanwhile, the new 3rd District, which is a combination of the rural 2nd District and portions of the southeast corner of the state, appears to be more favorable to Democrats.

On the other side of the state, the new map also combines slightly Republican suburban areas around Birmingham with some very Democratic-leaning African-American areas. That 6th District also is expected to be highly competitive and could give the Democrats yet another pickup.

The new map received a warm reception from Democrats, who had long argued that Alabama’s congressional map had been drawn in a way that benefitted Republican politicians while disfavoring African-American and other minority voters.

“The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with my long-standing contention that Alabama’s current congressional maps are unconstitutional and ordered the state to draw a new map that fairly represents all of its citizens,” said Terri Sewell, the state’s lone Democratic member of Congress, in a statement.

However, the changes were sharply criticized by Republicans in the state.

“We believe the current congressional map fairly represents Alabama’s people and respect their right to govern themselves and make their own laws,” said state House Speaker Mac McCutcheon and Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh in a joint statement.