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Supreme court to review Alabama redistricting plan

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to weigh a challenge to Alabama's most recent redistricting plan for state elections over allegations it diminishes the influence of black voters.

The court will hear two cases brought by the Alabama Democratic Conference and the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus against the redistricting carried out by the Republican controlled state legislature in 2012.

Democrats say the state violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution by packing black voters, who tend to vote Democratic, into a small number of districts. The challengers say it makes it harder for Democrats to win in other districts. A federal court upheld the new plan in a December 2013 ruling.

"I don’t think they have a leg to stand on. I think it is going to be very clear that we complied," said Bill Armistead, chairman of the Alabama Republican Party. "It was well thought out and all of the legal ramifications have been satisfied."

Joe Reed, Chairman of the Alabama Democratic Conference, said Republicans were trying to weaken black voting strength.

"They are packing counties with blacks to cluster their votes," he said. "If you put all of the blacks together, they can't form a coalition with anybody to get legislation passed." Oral arguments and a decision are expected in the Supreme Court's next term, which begins in October and ends in June 2015.

The cases are Alabama Democratic Conference v. Alabama and Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 13-1138 and 13.895.

(Additional reporting by Verna Gates.; Editing by Howard Goller and Andre Grenon)

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