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LWV Watches Oral Arguments in SCOTUS Racial Vote Dilution Case, Merrill v. Milligan

Press Release / Last Updated:

WASHINGTON — Yesterday, the League of Women Voters of the United States and League of Women Voters of Alabama stood in solidarity with Alabama voters in Merrill v. Milligan as it was heard before the US Supreme Court. Previously, a three-judge panel in Alabama agreed with plaintiffs that Alabama’s congressional map violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by diluting the political power of Black Alabamians and ordered a new map to be drawn. The Leagues of Women Voters of the US and Alabama, along with Stand-Up Mobile and the Southern Poverty Law Center, submitted an amicus brief in support of the Milligan plaintiffs. 

“Democracy depends on maintaining voters' trust that their voice is not worth less than any other voter,” said Kathy Jones, president of the League of Women Voters of Alabama. “Alabama’s unrepentant dilution and suppression of Black voters represents a continuation of Alabama’s shameful history of racism against Black people. The court must uphold the rights of Black Alabamians to elect the leaders of their choice. When Black voters are silenced, our democracy is not whole.”  

The State of Alabama argues that their maps are fair and race neutral, and that drawing a second district where Black voters could elect a candidate of choice would be unfair to white voters. However, as recognized by Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson at oral argument, Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act necessitates looking at race in voting practices or procedures. The Voting Rights Act was passed to remedy racial discrimination in voting as this case shows in Alabama.  

Throughout its history, the state of Alabama has systematically deprived Black Alabamians of the equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice. Alabama’s population is over one-fourth Black, yet the state’s current discriminatory congressional map continues to pack Black residents in one congressional district and spread other Black residents among the remaining districts, which ensures that the political power of these communities is diluted. 

“We were encouraged that many of the Justices recognized that the historical purpose of Section 2 of the VRA was to root out racial discrimination in voting, regardless of legislators' intent,” said Celina Stewart, chief counsel and senior director of advocacy and litigation for the League of Women Voters of the United States. “As counsel for the Milligan plaintiffs noted, nothing about Alabama’s maps is race neutral. Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act is a critical tool for voters to challenge racial discrimination in redistricting — even more so after the gutting of Section 5 of the Act in 2013 which removed federal preclearance requirements from states like Alabama.” 

Alabama has a long history of employing laws and devises to minimize the voting strength of Black residents and prevent Black people from voting, in an effort to protect and preserve the white political power of the state. These efforts have resulted in the dilution of representation of a large proportion of Black Alabamians and had severe consequences for individuals, communities, and the protection of the environment. 

During the recent redistricting cycle, the League of Women Voters of Alabama joined many other state voting rights organizations to call for fair maps. However, their pleas for fair and equitable maps were ignored, as the legislature raced to pass voting maps that they hadn't even reviewed before passage. 

Following passage, multiple lawsuits against the 2021 congressional map were filed. The three-judge district court panel found, in favor of the plaintiffs, that Alabama’s 2021 congressional map was a violation of the Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act because its singular majority-Black district operates to dilute the votes of Black Alabamians.  

A decision in Merrill v. Milligan is expected in the spring of 2023. 


PRESS CONTACT: Kayla Vix | [email protected] | 202-809-9668

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