Supreme Court makes shock decision as justices vote 5-4 to overturn Republican-drawn congressional districts in Alabama because they discriminate against black voters
- Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kavanaugh sided with the liberals in the case
- Ruled that Alabama voting cards violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965
- The state has just one in seven majority black seats, even though more than one in four residents are African American
The Supreme Court ordered Alabama to redraw its voting cards because it discriminated against black Americans in a shock ruling Thursday.
The justices voted 5-4 to invalidate Republican-established congressional districts because they do not represent the racial distribution of the state’s population.
Alabama had just one in seven seats where the majority of voters were black, even though one in four residents are African American. This district reliably elected a Democrat while the other six were Republican-dominated.
The nation’s highest court ruled it a likely violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a landmark civil rights bill, and ordered the cards redrawn.
The startling decision was made possible by conservatives Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, joining alongside the courts, four liberals.
District 7 is the only majority black district in Alabama
The Supreme Court on Thursday issued a startling 5-4 ruling in favor of black voters in a congressional redistricting case, ordering the creation of a second district with a large black population. Plaintiff Evan Milligan speaks in court
The case had been closely watched for its potential to weaken the landmark suffrage law.
It was part of a larger battle over redistricting across the country, where civil rights advocates say the process disadvantages minority communities while Republican state officials say the Constitution only allows limited consideration of race in the determination of electoral constituencies.
Roberts wrote that there were legitimate concerns that the Voting Rights Act “could unacceptably elevate race in the allocation of political power within states”, but, he added: “Our opinion today neither diminishes nor neglects these concerns”. He simply argues that a faithful application of our precedents and a fair reading of the record before us do not confirm them here.
The court had allowed the disputed map to be used for the 2022 election and during arguments in October the justices appeared willing to make it harder to use the Voting Rights Act to challenge redistricting plans like racially discriminatory.
The Chief Justice himself suggested last year that he was open to changes to the way the courts assess discrimination claims under the part of the law known as Section 2.
The other four conservative justices dissented on Thursday. Judge Clarence Thomas wrote that the ruling requires “Alabama to intentionally redesign its longstanding 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 requires no such thing, and if it did, the Constitution would not permit it.
The current case stems from challenges to Congress’ map of Alabama’s seven districts, which included a district in which black voters form a large enough majority that they would have the power to elect their preferred candidate.
The challengers said one district isn’t enough, pointing out that overall, Alabama’s population is more than 25% black.
A three-judge tribunal, with two appointees from former President Donald Trump, had no trouble concluding that the plan likely violated voting rights law by diluting the votes of black Alabamians. The panel ordered that a new map be drawn.
But the state quickly appealed to the Supreme Court, where five conservative justices blocked the lower court’s decision from moving forward. They allowed last year’s congressional elections to be held according to the map that the trial court ruled illegal.
At the same time, the court decided to hear the Alabama case and the closing arguments took place in early October.