The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower-court ruling on a 5-to-4 vote Thursday, deciding Alabama's 2022 congressional maps violated the Voting Rights Act.
The decision safeguards Section 2 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which bans voting practices of discrimination based on race, color or membership in specific language groups. As a result, Alabama may see new congressional maps soon.
Kathy Jones, president of the League of Women Voters of Alabama, praised the ruling as a "momentous day" for voters and voting-rights advocates, by guaranteeing Black voters in Alabama can fairly select their preferred candidate, knowing their votes matter.
"This ruling supports the decision of the three-judge panel that these maps diluted voting power based on race," Jones asserted. "It is a powerful declaration that Black voices in Alabama will no longer be ignored. We are pleased that we are one step closer to finally achieving equal representation in our state."
Mapmakers distributed residents into districts in such a way to only allowed Black voters to elect candidates in one district, despite comprising about 27% of the state's voting-age population. The district court's unanimous decision had said not one, but two, compact congressional districts should have been formed with majorities or near-majorities of Black voters.
Jones added the ruling offers federal protection for those fighting other laws labeled as voter suppression, including House Bill 209, which would have made it criminal for civic organizations or individuals to help others vote by limiting those who could provide assistance with absentee ballots or applications.
Although the bill failed to pass during this year's legislative session, if it returns next year, Jones pointed out they can now rely on the high court's ruling for support.
"We fought it from beginning to end," Jones emphasized. "If they do decide to pass this bill next year over our opposition, then we will have legal protections to go after the state."
Even as she expressed optimism, Jones noted there's still work to be done to create more equity in voting. A statement from the National Redistricting Foundation indicated pending lawsuits over congressional districts in Georgia and Texas could also be affected.
Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.
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SCOTUS upheld in Allen v. Milligan a lower court ruling that Alabama must create a second majority Black congressional district in compliance with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
In the last decade, the US Supreme Court has severely weakened the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was widely agreed to be the most influential civil rights law in our history.
This term, the Court considers Section 2 in Merrill v. Milligan (now Allen v. Milligan). It threatens to weaken a well-established precedent lower courts have used for decades to evaluate redistricting plans alleged to be racially discriminatory.
This blog explores the history of Section 2 and its impact on discriminatory redistricting plans, explains the dispute in Milligan, and previews potential next steps to protect voting rights.