U.S. Supreme Court rules Alabama congressional districts violate the Voting Rights Act

By WVUA23 News Student Reporter Avery Lake and The Associated Press

The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 vote that Alabama’s current congressional districts violates section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. SCOTUS ruled that Alabama’s districts disenfranchised African American voters in the state. The ruling states that the Alabama legislature used a discriminatory redistricting technique called “cracking” in the state’s “Black Belt” area where African Americans make up most of the population. The maps were drawn the map in such a way that African American voters could only elect a candidate of their choice.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh aligned with the court’s liberals in affirming a lower-court ruling that found a likely violation of the Voting Rights Act in an Alabama congressional map with one majority Black seat out of seven districts in a state where more than one in four residents is Black. The state now will have to draw a new map for next year’s elections.

Alabama’s lone democratic representative, Congresswoman Terri Sewell, said that today’s decision was a historic win for African American voters.

“We know that fair representation matters,” said Sewell. “We also know that the amazing foot soldiers, many unknown, we know of John Lewis, really gave a sacrifice for the right of every American to have a equal voice in our democracy and I feel as if their struggle, their sacrifice was rewarded today in this very historic decision.”

The other four conservative justices dissented Thursday. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the decision forces “Alabama to intentionally redraw 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 demands no such thing, and, if it did, the Constitution would not permit it.”

This decision by the Supreme Court will not only effect Alabama, but many other states as well.

“The decision to redraw the district lines is a historic decision that will effect the state of Alabama, North Carolina, Ohio, and I dare say a lot of the southern states where the African American population is an excess of 25% and there’s only one majority-minority congressional district.” Said Sewell.

Attorney General Merrick Garland applauded the ruling: “Today’s decision rejects efforts to further erode fundamental voting rights protections, and preserves the principle that in the United States, all eligible voters must be able to exercise their constitutional right to vote free from discrimination based on their race.”

Evan Milligan, a Black voter and the lead plaintiff in the case, said the ruling was a victory for democracy and people of color.

“We are grateful that the Supreme Court upheld what we knew to be true: that everyone deserves to have their vote matter and their voice heard. Today is a win for democracy and freedom not just in Alabama but across the United States,” Milligan said.

Alabama’s legislature will now draw a new map that will be in effect in the 2024 election.

Alabama Republican Party Chairman John Wahl said in a statement that state lawmakers would comply with the ruling.

“Regardless of our disagreement with the Court’s decision, we are confident the Alabama Legislature will redraw district lines that ensure the people of Alabama are represented by members who share their beliefs, while following the requirements of applicable law,” Wahl said.

But Steve Marshall, the state’s Republican attorney general, said he expects to continue defending the challenged map in federal court, including at a full trial.

“Although the majority’s decision is disappointing, this case is not over,” Marshall said in a statement.

Alabama’s Black population is large enough and geographically compact enough to create a second district, the judges found.

At arguments in October, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson scoffed at the idea that race could not be part of the equation. Jackson, the court’s first Black woman, said that constitutional amendments passed after the Civil War and the Voting Rights Act a century later were intended to do the same thing, make Black Americans “equal to white citizens.”

Categories: Alabama News, Local News