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ALABAMA

FEBRUARY 2020

 

Alabama: A federal district court has rejected an NAACP-backed lawsuit targeting Alabama's method for electing its appellate courts, ruling that the system does not discriminate against black voters.

The plaintiffs are challenging how Alabama elects judges to its state Supreme Court and intermediate appellate courts. These positions are elected on an "at-large" basis statewide, which prevents black voters from electing their chosen candidates because the state's white majority votes heavily for other candidates (i.e., white Republicans).

The plaintiffs had urged the court to strike down the current method and require the state to use districts to elect judges instead, which would have given black voters a chance to form a majority in some districts where they could elect their preferred candidates (likely black Democrats).

At-large election systems have been struck down across the country under the Voting Rights Act for diluting black and Latino voting power, but prior rulings have almost all dealt with elections for legislative bodies such as city councils. Although the Supreme Court ruled in 1991 that the Voting Rights Act applies to judicial elections, it has rarely been used successfully to combat at-large voting schemes. Plaintiffs have said they are still considering whether to appeal.