Alabama: SPLC Emphasizes Mobile’s Legal Obligations Under Voting Rights Act

Mayor and City Council of Mobile, Alabama, to consider their “affirmative obligation” under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act o
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Photo: ACLU

MOBILE, Ala. — Today, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) urged in a letter to the Mayor and City Council of Mobile, Alabama, to consider their “affirmative obligation” under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) in upcoming political map drawing.

Sent on behalf of concerned Mobile residents, the SPLC’s letter highlighted concerns regarding the boundaries of city council districts as well as potential future annexation efforts in the city. Mobile is now both majority-Black and majority-minority, according to the recently released 2020 U.S. Census data.

“For decades, discriminatory redistricting and annexations have been used as a tool to dilute the political power of Black communities in Alabama and therefore deny them their fair share of resources,” said Caren Short, senior supervising attorney for the SPLC. “Because the annexation efforts proposed by certain Mobile officials could undermine Mobile residents’ right to fair and equitable representation on the city council, we strongly urge the Mayor and City Council to comply with federal law and adhere to the Voting Rights Act when drawing political maps that will last a decade.”

The emailed letter notes that Mobile’s City Council is currently composed of seven councilmembers – four of whom are white and elected from majority-white districts. In a majority-Black and majority-minority city, the letter states, a new map with similar composition may run afoul of Section 2 of the VRA, which requires that lawmakers ensure voters of color have “an equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect candidates of their choice.”

The SPLC also details how annexation of land with white population into the city – without annexation of land that includes comparable Black population – would likely violate Section 2 of the VRA because such action would serve to dilute Black political power.

As reported by the SPLC to Congress earlier this year, such tactics are not new in the history of Alabama. If passed by Congress in the coming weeks, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would potentially trigger federal oversight of Mobile’s political maps to ensure they comply with Section 2 of the VRA before they are implemented.

The letter to Mobile officials is available in full here.

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