Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange [official profile] filed suit [complaint, PDF] in federal court on Thursday seeking approval of a redistricting plan passed by the Alabama state legislature in May. The lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website], asks the court to issue a declaratory judgment approving the plan without going through the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] to ensure that the plan does not discriminate against minority voters. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 [LII backgrounder] requires many southern states, including Alabama, either to receive preclearance from the DOJ or approval from a three-judge US District Court panel for any redistricting plan to make sure the plan is not racially discriminatory. Critics of Alabama's redistricting plan claim [AP report] that the plan is racially gerrymandered. In its complaint, Alabama requested that the court either declare that the redistricting plan does not discriminate on the basis of race or deem section 5 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional and enjoin the DOJ from enforcing that section. It is unclear when the district court will rule on the Alabama redistricting plan.
Redistricting maps have been a subject of controversy recently. In February, the US District Court for the Western District of Texas [official website] issued new voting maps [materials] for use in the 2012 elections. The new maps were issued after the US Supreme Court [official website] rejected [JURIST report] Texas's interim redistricting maps in an emergency appeal [JURIST report] filed to challenge an interim map drawn up by the US District Court for the Western District of Texas. The Supreme Court rejected the initial interim maps, finding that, "it is unclear whether the District Court for the Western District of Texas followed the appropriate standards." In January, the US District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia [official website] rejected [JURIST report] West Virginia's congressional redistricting plan on the grounds that the plan did not account for changes in population.