Supreme Court delivers ruling in Alabama racial gerrymandering case

 June 9, 2023

The Associated Press reports that the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday issued a "surprising" ruling in a congressional redistricting case from Alabama. 

The ruling struck down the Republican-backed congressional map as a likely violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a law that prohibits voting practices that discriminate on the basis of race.


Fox News reports:

Following the 2020 census, Alabama created a new redistricting map for its seven seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Alabama currently has just one Black-majority district out of seven seats, in a statewide population that is about one-quarter Black.

Accordingly, Alabama voters, the NAACP, and Greater Birmingham Ministries challenged the map arguing that it is racially discriminatory - that it limited the influence that Black voters could have on elections by changing "majority-Black counties… into majority-White Congressional districts."

The lower court agreed, finding that the map likely violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

Subsequently, the case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court. And, as stated at the outset, the justices upheld the lower court ruling.

Here's what makes this decision so surprising:

There are a couple of things.

First, there is the composition of the court's 5 to 4 ruling: The majority consisted of the court's three liberal justices - Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Ketanji Brown Jackson - as well as Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

The remaining justices - Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barrett - all dissented. They wrote:

The question presented is whether [Section 2] of the Act, as amended, requires the State of Alabama to intentionally redraw its long-standing congressional districts so that Black voters can control a number of seats roughly proportional to the Black share of the State’s population. Section 2 demands no such thing, and, if it did, the Constitution would not permit it.

The second fact that makes this decision surprising is that the Supreme Court previously allowed the very congressional map that it just struck down to be used for the 2022 midterm elections. Not only that, but, in previous arguments, the justices seemed to signal that, under this court, it will be more difficult than before to challenge redistricting plans as racially discriminatory.

In other words, all signs would seem to have suggested that the court would have upheld the map. But, it didn't.

What now?

The case will continue being litigated, according to Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall (R).

But, in the meantime, a new map will be redrawn by the Alabama legislature. The new map will be expected to have two Black-majority districts instead of one.

This could end up having a significant impact on the 2024 election. Time will tell.

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
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