The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected Alabama’s request to reinstate a congressional map drawn by Republican lawmakers that has only one majority-black district, paving the way for a new map before the 2024 election.
Alabama’s request to keep its map marks the second time in less than a year that the Supreme Court has asked the Supreme Court to uphold the limited role of race in establishing voting districts for federal elections. In the latest twist in the case, a lower court found that the state had brazenly violated its order to create a second majority black district, or something “next to” it.
The court’s order did not give any reasons, which is often the case when judges decide on emergency applications. The ruling clears the way for a special master and court-appointed cartographer to create a new map.
The outcome of the dispute could ultimately tip the balance in the House, where Republicans hold a slim majority. Lawmakers in Washington and other states are closely watching the case’s trajectory.
In a surprise ruling in June, the Supreme Court found that Alabama had hurt black voters in drawing its voting map, reaffirming part of a key civil rights law.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has long been skeptical of racially motivated decision-making. Majority Opinion. Justice Brett M. Kavanagh was joined on the courts by three liberal justices — Ketanji Brown Jackson, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
At issue was Alabama’s congressional map. Its Republican-controlled legislature divided the state into seven districts and continues to maintain only one majority-black district, although blacks make up a quarter of the state’s population.
After the Supreme Court’s ruling, state legislators scrambled to draw a new map. Over the objections of Democrats, the Legislature introduced a version that redrew the district boundaries but did not include additional majority-black districts. Conversely, it increased the percentage of black voters in one district from 30 percent to about 40 percent.
A federal three-judge panel overseeing the case found that lawmakers may have again violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“The law requires the creation of additional districts that give black Alabamians, like all others, a fair and equitable opportunity to elect the candidates of their choice,” the committee said. wrote. The judges added that the legislature’s proposal “clearly fails to do so”.
In asking the Supreme Court to intervene, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall acknowledged that the Legislature did not add a second majority-black district to its map as ordered by a federal court, but said its new map still complies with the law.
Unless the court acts, he wrote, “the state will have no meaningful opportunity to appeal before the 2023 plan is replaced by a court-drawn map that no state can constitutionally enact.”
In their brief, the plaintiffs, including black voters and advocacy groups, urged the justices to reject Alabama’s request for relief, saying the state had tried to “brazenly” defy the courts by using “recycled arguments.”
After the Supreme Court’s ruling in June, the plaintiffs wrote, Alabama’s legislature drew up its plan in secret, with no opportunity for public comment, and implemented it “over alternative plans supported by black Alabamians.”
“This court’s disagreement with the ruling is not a valid reason to overrule it — and is not a basis for granting an emergency injunction application,” they wrote.