Supreme Court rules against Alabama in high-stakes voting rights case

FAN Editor

Washington — The Supreme Court on Thursday invalidated a congressional map drawn by state lawmakers in Alabama after the 2020 Census, finding the state’s redistricting plan for its seven House seats likely violated a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.

In an opinion authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, the high court declined to accept far-reaching arguments from Republican officials in Alabama that would have made it more difficult to challenge congressional and state legislative maps that dilute the power of minority voters under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson joined Roberts in the majority, while Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett dissented.

The ruling in favor of a group of Black voters who challenged the lawfulness of the congressional voting lines came as a surprise, given that the high court has chipped away at the Voting Rights Act in a string of decisions under Roberts, most notably in 2013.

But in its decision in the case known as Allen v. Milligan, the 5-4 court declined to further weaken the landmark law, and instead affirmed a lower court opinion that found it substantially likely that Alabama’s map violated Section 2. The lower court ordered Alabama state lawmakers to redraw its congressional map to include a second district that gave Black voters equal opportunity to elect their favored candidate, as required by the Voting Rights Act.

“We find Alabama’s new approach to [Section 2] compelling neither in theory nor in practice,” Roberts wrote. “We accordingly decline to recast our [Section 2] case law as Alabama requests.”

The fight over Alabama’s congressional map

The dispute arrived at the Supreme Court after the 2020 redistricting cycle, which led the state’s GOP-controlled legislature to enact new lines for Alabama’s seven congressional districts. Under the original map, there was one district — the 7th —with a majority of Black voters, which state Republicans said was consistent with each of Alabama’s congressional redistricting plans since 1992.

But a group of Black voters and voting rights groups challenged the boundaries under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits any voting procedure that abridges or denies the right to vote “on account of race.” Under the law, a violation of Section 2 occurs when, “based on the totality of circumstances,” members of a protected class “have less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice.”

The challengers argued the redistricting plan diluted the power of Black voters by preventing them from electing their preferred candidates in all but one congressional district.

A unanimous federal district court panel of three judges found it substantially likely that the map violated Section 2 and blocked Alabama from using the redistricting plan during the 2022 midterm elections. 

But Alabama GOP officials sought emergency relief from the Supreme Court, and the high court voted 5-4 in February 2022 to put the district court’s decision on hold and take up the dispute. Roberts joined the three liberal members of the court in dissent.

The November midterm elections were held under the original map, and the state’s delegation has one Democrat, Rep. Terri Sewell. Black Alabamians make up 27% of the state’s voting age population.

A surprise decision

The dispute was closely watched by voting rights experts, who feared that the Supreme Court’s 6-3 conservative majority would limit the ability of voters to challenge voting lines under Section 2 and pave the way for more racial gerrymandering of legislative maps.

The high court has weakened the Voting Rights Act in recent years, first in 2013 and then in 2021.

In the 2013 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court effectively dismantled Section 5 of the law, which required jurisdictions with a history of race-based voter discrimination to receive federal approval of changes to their voting rules. 

In the 2021 decision, Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, the Supreme Court upheld two voting rules from Arizona and said they did not violate Section 2. Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the court’s three liberal members, warned in dissent that the ruling “undermines Section 2 and the right it provides,” and accused the majority of rewriting the provision.

Separately, in 2019, the Supreme Court said federal courts had no role to play in deciding disputes involving partisan gerrymandering, making the dispute out of Alabama crucial in determining the role the Voting Rights Act would play in racial gerrymandering claims.

Free America Network Articles

Leave a Reply

Next Post

NASA mission to sun answers questions on solar wind

What is the aurora borealis? What is the aurora borealis? 01:05 A NASA mission to touch the sun has revealed answers about the closest star’s solar winds, which cause the aurora borealis and can affect Earth’s communications systems. The Parker Solar Probe has captured information about the solar wind that […]