In a victory for suffrage and voters in Alabama, the US Supreme Court ruled that the state likely violated the Voting Rights Act with a plan to redistribute congressional districts that diluted black voters’ suffrage.
The state likely discriminated against black voters with a Republican-drawn map that grouped most of the state’s black residents into one of seven counties, even though black residents make up 27 percent of the state’s population.
A key decision in the case of Allen against Milligan on June 8 means the state must redraw its congressional map to include a second majority-Black district.
The surprising 5-4 Conservative-majority panel decision was authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, along with Liberal Justices Elena Kagan, Ketanji Brown Jackson and Sonia Sotomayor, with the partial but decisive approval of Conservative Brett Kavanaugh.
Conservative Justices Samuel Alito, Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas disagreed.
Last year, a lower court ordered the state to draw new political lines to create at least two constituencies where black voters would be more likely to choose a congressman more similar to the state’s demographics.
The Voting Rights Act was drafted to prevent such racial dilution of black voters. But prosecutors argued the opposite – that using race to redefine political boundaries would constitute an unconstitutional consideration of “racial goals” and “race-based sorting,” in violation of the 14th Amendment’s equal treatment clause.
The judges rejected this argument.
A decision that would have sided with Alabama attorneys would have radically curtailed the political power of black voters and dealt a severe blow to a state with a long history of racial violence and discrimination.
Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act prohibits racial discrimination in electoral laws and voting policies. The state’s suggestion that “race should play no part at all” in determining whether redistribution plans violate Section 2 would “rewrite” the law and “undo decades of established precedent,” according to the card’s challengers.
Attorneys for President Joe Biden’s administration argued that Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act should be considered when “pervasive racial policies would otherwise deny minority voters equal voting opportunities.”
The card’s challengers argued that’s exactly what’s at stake in Alabama.
The case follows a 2021 lawsuit brought on behalf of Greater Birmingham Ministries, the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP and a constituency represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, among others. was submitted.
A group of black voters filed a similar lawsuit in 2018 and lost.
The state’s only majority-black district — currently represented by Democratic US Rep. Terri Sewell — has a voting population that is 60 percent black, which is about a third of the state’s black population.
The state’s remaining black population is divided into the first, second, and third congressional districts—all represented by white Republicans.
“This decision is a crucial victory against the ongoing attacks on voting rights,” said a statement from Deuel Ross, the NAACP’s senior legal counsel for legal defense and education, who represented the case in court last October.
“Alabama tried to rewrite federal law by saying race had no place in the redistribution. But because of the state’s sordid and well-documented history of racial discrimination, race must be used to remedy that past and ensure communities of color are not left out of the electoral process,” he added.
The June 8 decision comes days before the 10th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Shelby County vs. Holder This negated key federal oversight measures in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to protect against discriminatory voting laws. A decision will be made in 2021 Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee The inclusion of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act further limited the ability to challenge voting restrictions.
After passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, the US Department of Justice rejected hundreds of proposed amendments to election laws to prevent discriminatory outcomes.
But after the Supreme Court ruling in 2013, states closed hundreds of polling stations, disproportionately targeting areas of black voters. Republican lawmakers introduced numerous restrictive election laws, culminating in a wave of legislation changing the rules of election administration in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election.
The Supreme Court’s recent ruling could impact similar Section 2 challenges affecting recently redesigned congressional districts in several other southern states and could reshape the political map ahead of the 2024 election.
A case in Louisiana also argues that the state would also need a second black-majority congressional district to comply with the Voting Rights Act.