On Monday, the Supreme Court affirmed a Republican-led legislature’s gerrymandering map in Alabama. This happened after an appeals court panel rejected it, due to apparent breaches of the Voting Rights Act.
By a five to four decision (with Chief Justice John Roberts supporting the court’s three-member liberal group in dissent), the justices reversed the lower court’s judgment, keeping the altered map that opponents claimed dilutes black votes.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh, one among five Republican-appointed judges who voted to maintain the GOP-favored map, said the court’s hold would allow justices to conduct a thorough examination of the issue.
The same Court that twice gutted Voting Rights Act & upheld extreme partisan gerrymandering now giving green light to extreme racial gerrymandering. Black voters make up 27% of AL electorate but hold just 1 of 7 Congressional districts (14%) under GOP plan reinstated by SCOTUS https://t.co/ibhytst6Ze
— Ari Berman (@AriBerman) February 7, 2022
Kavanaugh also rebutted dissenters who believe the map destroys voting rights without a full briefing from all sides. This is a concern emphasized by Justice Elena Kagan, who termed the decision “a damage to our appellate procedures.”
“It is a travesty to the District Court, which followed this court’s long-standing voting rights doctrine with painstaking precision,” Kagan said.
“Most importantly, it is a disservice to black Alabamans, who have seen their political power weakened as a result of that precedent – in violation of a statute this court once recognized as a bulwark of American democracy.”
Alabama petitioned the Supreme Court directly last month, in an attempt to defend the revised map and avert the possibility of Democrats capturing a second seat in the country.
Alabama’s House delegation currently comprises six Republicans and one Democrat.
Voting Rights Act
Last month, a three-judge panel in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which contains two judges selected by Trump, directed lawmakers to design a map with “selected regions in which black voters are either a voting-age majority or very near to it.”
Alabama has a black population of around 27%, which equates to two seats, approximately 29 percent of the total in the seven-member delegation.
The 11th Circuit panel decided on Jan. 25 the first plan likely violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by providing only one district that allowed black voters to elect their preferred candidate.
A few days later, Republican Secretary of State John Merrill petitioned the Supreme Court to maintain the map.
Gerrymandering at its worst because Supreme Court at its worst said political gerrymandering cases were “non-justiciable” despite lower court cases finding “justiciability.” https://t.co/FzsuG733KE
— Sheldon Whitehouse (@SenWhitehouse) February 7, 2022
Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act makes it unlawful to deny members of a racial minority the same chance to elect preferred representatives. States usually interpret this as mandating legislators to establish districts with a majority of non-white voters.
In November, civil rights organizations filed lawsuits challenging the Republican-drawn map. They claimed lawmakers utilized gerrymandering methods like “cracking” and “packing,” which effectively establish voting districts for party benefit.
Additionally, opponents of the GOP-drawn map presented four alternative variations with two majority-black seats, demonstrating a variety of ways to comply with the 11th Circuit’s mandate.
In 2019, the Supreme Court declared partisan gerrymandering to be a political problem beyond the jurisdiction of federal courts. However, the Rucho v. Common Cause vacated the chamber to hear racial gerrymandering instances.