The Florida Bar - Board Certified Badge
Martindale-Hubbell - AV Preeminent Badge
Super Lawyers - Michael B Cohen Badge

After the Shelby v Holder Decision - States Change Voting Laws - Alabama 2

Attorney General Luther Strange (R-AL) filed a required lawsuit on July 26, 2012 pursuing clearance from a federal court, demonstrating that Alabama's new redistricting law doesn't infringe on any provisions of the Voting Rights Act. The suit was reviewed by a three-judge panel in District Court that ultimately decided the case favorably for the Attorney General of Alabama. The Department of Justice then approved the new redistricting maps in October, 2012.

Prior to the ruling of the District Court, in August, 2012, a group of black office holders along with the Legislative Black Caucus filed a lawsuit in federal court in an attempt to block the deployment of the newly approved redistricting plan. The lawsuit asked the federal court to declare two parts of the plan unconstitutional and "order the Legislature to start over," according to a lawyer representing plaintiffs.

The lawsuit asserted that the new redistricting plan which was passed by both the Alabama House of Representatives and Senate diluted the strength of minority voting and illegally as well as needlessly fragmented counties within the State between multiple legislative districts.

The plaintiff's argument stated that the new proposal created districts that traversed multiple counties. As per the norm, since the Alabama Legislature mostly decided local legislation, the new plan, unnecessarily splitting these counties, for example, gave the voters in County 1 a judgment in the affairs of County 2. The plaintiff stressed that this action diluted the voting power of residents of the latter, putting the plan in violation of "one man, one vote" principles. The group's Counsel stated that "even though it would be necessary to split some counties, they split three or four times as many counties as necessary to comply with the one person one vote requirement"

The state countered by expressing to the Court that the claim of the plaintiff should be dismissed due to want of jurisdiction. The three-judge panel agreed with that commentary, returning the opinion that the Black Caucus didn't have standing. In a 2-1 majority opinion the panel found that the plaintiffs had not established an association between the local delegation system in the Legislature and the new redistricting plan. They also noted that districts which were created in 2002 did not meet the requirements offered by the plaintiffs'.

Other laws pertaining to voting regulations have also been added or amended since Shelby, including voter id requirements. In total, thirty-four states have passed new voter ID laws. In Alabama, as it stands now, a new voter id law will go into effect in 2014. The new law offers seven different types of identification that are acceptable set against the fifteen types of identification that were available to be used with the old law. All new methods of identification must be picture id. Previous methods of identification that have been eliminated are certified birth certificates, Social Security cards, Naturalization documents, Court record of an adoption or name change, Medicaid or Medicare card, an Electronic benefits transfer card, a Utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or government document showing the name and address of voter Additionally State documents such as an Alabama State hunting or fishing license, as well as a gun permit have also been disqualified.

The existing law is stated as "Each elector shall provide identification to an appropriate election official prior to voting." The new law is stated verbatim, with the exception of the two new words added to it: "Each elector shall provide valid photo identification to an appropriate election official prior to voting."

This past September, U. S. Attorney General Eric Holder articulated to an overflowing gathering at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, during a commemorative service of the fiftieth anniversary of the church's bombing that the fight which began there in 1963 remains today. He went on to express to the crowd that the Voting Rights Act was "under siege" by individuals who would roll it back to how things were before its institution, and with civil rights repudiated by a system of criminal justice that does more to preserve problems than to work toward their resolution. He then continued by saying "Today, we affirm that it is our duty… and it will always be the responsibility of every American… to confront injustice wherever it is found, to isolate those who act out of hate, and to make real the brighter future, and the more just world, that Addie Mae, Cynthia, Carole, and Denise never had the chance in which to live."