WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Thursday voided a Republican-elected congressional district in Alabama, arguing civil rights activists discriminated against black voters in the sudden reaffirmation of a landmark voting rights law. .
The court ruled against it by a vote of 5 to 4. The map of Alabama, the seven congressional districts that favor Republicans, will be redrawn. Chief Justices John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh, both conservatives, joined the tribunal’s three liberal majority.
In doing so, the court, which has a 6-to-3 conservative majority, will address concerns among civil rights activists that black voters in states such as Alabama are undermining their power by dividing them. rejected state efforts to make it harder to A constituency with a majority of white voters.
In his ruling, Roberts said he represented the majority and said the lower court had correctly concluded that the map of Congress violated the Voting Rights Act.
In 2013, Roberts wrote a ruling that watered down another key provision of the Voting Rights Act, saying that various government efforts to address historic racism were problematic and could exacerbate the situation. I have long argued that I am.
In Thursday’s ruling, he said there were genuine concerns that the Voting Rights Act “could unacceptably increase race in the distribution of political power,” and that the Alabama ruling “reduces or mitigates those concerns.” It’s not something to ignore,” he said.
Roberts added that the court “simply finds that it cannot be proven here, even if it has faithfully applied the precedent and read the record fairly.”
As such, the court left the statute open for future challenges, and Mr. Kavanaugh, in a separate opinion, argued that his statutory I wrote that the vote does not preclude objections to Article 2. District reorganization is no longer justified.
Civil rights groups and their supporters, including the Biden administration, celebrated the almost unexpected victory.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said, “Today’s decision rejects efforts to further erode basic voting rights protections and rejects the constitutional right to vote for all voters in the United States without discrimination based on race.” We will maintain the principle that we must be able to exercise our rights,” he said. in a statement.
NAACP President Derrick Johnson applauded the Supreme Court’s rejection in an effort to suppress the black vote.
“This decision is a victory for Black America and a victory for our democracy,” he said. But, he added, “this battle is not over yet.”
Despite the ruling, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall vowed to continue the battle over the state’s map.
“Despite the majority’s decision, the case is not over,” he said in a brief statement.
The two consolidated lawsuits stemmed from a lawsuit over a new congressional district map drawn up by the Republican-dominated Alabama legislature after the 2020 Census. Dissenters, including individual voters and the NAACP Alabama Congress, argued that the map violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by discriminating against black voters.
The new map created one out of seven constituencies in the state where black voters were more likely to pick the candidate they wanted. The dissenters provide evidence that states with more than one-fourth of the population black should have two such districts, and such districts could be established. claims to have done so.
A lower court agreed in a decision last January that, based on Supreme Court precedent, plaintiffs found that Alabama’s black population was large enough and compact enough for a second-majority black district to exist. said to show. A court ordered a new map, but state Republican Attorney General Steve Marshall appealed to the Supreme Court, which stayed the case and agreed to a hearing.
Four conservative judges, led by Justice Clarence Thomas, opposed Thursday’s ruling.
Thomas wrote that his desired outcome “does not require federal law enforcement to determine the correct racial distribution of seats in the Alabama legislature.”
He argued that under the approach taken by the lower courts, Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act “provides racially proportional control over electoral office when different racial groups consistently favor different candidates.” It’s nothing but a right,” he added.
Last year, the Supreme Court split 5-4 on whether to allow the use of Republican maps in the November election, and Roberts joined three liberals on the court in dissenting. Kavanaugh suggested at the time that the vote to allow the map was based on a lower court ruling handed down too close to an election.
In the election, Republicans won six of the seven seats, while Democrats won majority black constituencies. Black voters are more likely to vote for Democrats, so the Democrats could have won more seats had the new map been adopted.
The Alabama case was one of several cases in which the Supreme Court’s ruling may have helped Republicans win a fragile majority in the House.
Alabama argued that the lower court gave too much weight to race in reaching its conclusion. Marshall said in court papers that the fact that dissenters were able to use a computer-generated map to draw a second-majority black neighborhood shows that the state’s action was discriminatory. He said there wasn’t enough evidence to show that there was. He also mentioned traditional “race-neutral” cartographic elements that consider issues such as local culture and identity and the requirement that districts have similar populations.
Richard Pildes, an election law expert at New York University School of Law, said the ruling was “more important for the future than just a reassertion of the status quo.”
A court has effectively approved the use of computer-generated maps in difficult districts. New technology has made it easier to find maps that could be challenged under the Voting Rights Act, he added.
The Supreme Court has undermined the Voting Rights Act in two cases over the past decade, beginning in 2013 when the bill allowed federal oversight of election law changes in certain states. It was a watered down clause. A 2021 ruling in Arizona made it more difficult for courts to sue under Section 2.
The case is one of three cases the court is hearing this term in which conservative lawyers have pushed the so-called race-neutral argument favored by the right as a way to remedy racism. ing. In other cases, courts may suspend affirmative action in college admissions and invalidate portions of the law that favors Native Americans seeking Native American adoption.
The court is also considering another major election-related dispute this quarter, and will rule on Republican efforts to curb the ability of state courts to enforce provisions of state constitutions in federal elections. The ruling is due by the end of this month and could make it easier for Republican Congress to restrict voting rights.
fix (June 8, 2023, 1:41 PM ET): An earlier version of this article incorrectly listed the year of the lower court’s ruling. It was January 2022, not January of this year.