Type to search

Government - Federal Government - Local National News

Supreme Court ruling to redraw new voting maps in Alabama have implications in Georgia


The United States Supreme Court, with a 5 to 4 ruling, ordered Alabama officials to redraw the state’s congressional map to allow an additional Black majority district to account for the fact that the state is 27% Black.

Chief Justice John Roberts penned the opinion for the majority, siding with the court’s three liberals. Justice Brett Kavanaugh agreed with the key parts of the holding, providing the fifth vote.

The Alabama ruling stems from a court case in which voting rights advocates challenged the state’s map, redrawn in 2021 with new data from the latest U.S. census, on grounds that it threatened federal protections for minority voters. Black voters make up roughly 27% of the state’s electorate, yet they held a majority in only one congressional district. A federal court ruled last year the Legislature should have drawn another district that gave Black voters more clout.

Supporters of the voting rights had feared that the court was going to make it harder for minorities to challenge maps under Section 2 of the historic Voting Rights Act. The ruling did the exact opposite by affording additional opportunities for minority voters to elect the candidate of their choice. The 5-4 ruling found Alabama’s GOP-controlled Legislature likely violated the law when it drew a map with one majority-Black seat out of seven congressional districts.

Said Roberts, “We are content to reject Alabama’s invitation to change existing law.” The fact that Roberts penned the decision is a surprise given that 10 years ago, the chief justice effectively gutted a separate section of the Voting Rights Act that required states with a history of discrimination to obtain federal approval before changing election laws.

In recent years, Section 2 has been instrumental in paving the way for minority voters to more fully participate in the political process, especially as they combat maps that appear to be neutral but actually entrench racial polarization. It bars voting rules that result in a denial or abridgment of the right to vote on account of racial discrimination.

Roberts wrote Thursday that Section 2 “may impermissibly elevate race in the allocation of political power within the States is, of course, not new,” but he said the opinion “does not diminish or disregard these concerns. It simply holds that a faithful application of our precedents and a fair reading of the record before us do not bear them out here. Alabama’s argument “runs headlong into our precedent. A district is not equally open, in other words, when minority voters face – unlike their majority peers – bloc voting along racial lines, arising against the backdrop of substantial racial discrimination within the State, that renders a minority vote unequal to a vote by a nonminority voter. ”

Alabama’s Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell, the state’s first Black woman elected to Congress, said the Supreme Court’s decision will lead to more “equitable maps” in Alabama. Said Sewell, “I’m so happy that the justices saw the truth in the fact that that represents voter dilution and it’s black voter dilution. Everyone’s looking at this decision and I think that it will have a ripple effect, a positive ripple effect. It means that minority dilution is not going to be tolerated by the Supreme Court or by any court in the land and that is a huge victory.”

Alabama currently has seven congressional districts, with six represented by Republicans. After the 2020 census, Alabama enacted a congressional map that included just one Black majority district out of the state’s seven districts despite the fact that Black voters constitute 27% of the state’s population.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement, “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.”The high Court’s ruling is being discussed among many and could reshape maps in other states including Georgia as there are several pending lawsuits that allege redrawn congressional districts in the state illegally diminished Black voting strength. Advocates are now preparing for a new phase in litigation. The Rev. James Woodall, a former Georgia NAACP chair and voting rights activist, said the ruling could also reshape a separate court case involving the Georgia Public Service Commission. “The Supreme Court has affirmed in Alabama what we know all too well in Georgia,” Woodall said. “Racial discrimination of Black voters is real.”

Georgia’s redistricting resulted in Republicans gaining a U.S. House seat in last year’s elections. As he noted similarities between the cases in both states, Georgia State University law professor Anthony Michael Kreis said, “It is now more likely for courts to rule that Georgia legislators also ran afoul of the law. It seems by all accounts that this decision from the Supreme Court today has greenlit that litigation to go forward. And it’s very likely that we’re going to have to redraw our districts here in Georgia to comply with the Voting Rights Act.”

The House currently has 222 Republicans and 212 Democrats, and one vacancy. Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law said, “Between those rulings and lower courts following them in other states, that led directly to at least three, and as many as six, seats in the current House controlled by Republicans that might otherwise have been controlled by Democrats – along with the House itself.”

In a particularly fiery dissent, conservative Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Justice Neil Gorsuch called the majority opinion a “flawed understanding” of Supreme Court precedent. Georgia’s own Justice Clarence Thomas, in part of a dissent that was joined by Gorsuch, asserted that the Voting Rights Act should not apply to redistricting. His disappointing opinion did not come as a surprise to many who we spoke to who have watched Thomas rule against gains made by Blacks, many of which he benefited from.

Strong local news has the ability to educate us as citizens, connect us as people, and empower us as communities. SPOTLIGHT South Cobb News has been serving our community in this role since 2021. Please help us fund the important work of SPOTLIGHT by making a contribution today.  


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *