WASHINGTON – U.S. Supreme Court justices on Tuesday heard oral arguments in a case that challenges an Alabama redistricting map and could potentially eliminate remaining federal safeguards against racial gerrymandering.
Voting rights advocates fear that the high court’s conservative majority will further weaken the Voting Rights Act, with implications for voters in states across the country.
The case, Merrill v. Milligan, considers whether the 2021 redistricting map for Alabama’s seven congressional districts violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act because it dilutes the collective voting power of Black voters.
Black voters make up more than a quarter of the state’s population, but only one congressional district—which makes up about 17% of the state’s population—would be majority Black under the Alabama plan, drawn up by the Republican-controlled state legislature after the 2020 census.
Black voters are spread out across the other six congressional districts, and don’t make up a majority in any, under the map. Those challenging the map say there should be one more majority-Black district.
Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act prevents any state from imposing election practices that result in the denial of the right to vote based on race.
Liberals question Alabama AG
The court’s three liberal justices—Ketanji Brown Jackson, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor —grilled Alabama Solicitor General Edmund LaCour, who argued that Alabama’s state legislature drew the map “in a lawful race-neutral manner.”
LaCour argued that the Black voters suing the state failed to meet a legal test in Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, under which they are required to show that the map is an illegal racial gerrymander. That requirement is laid out in the court’s 1986 decision in Thornburg v. Gingles.
Jackson asked why LaCour was calling the map a neutral plan because the tests “are designed to establish that there may actually be racial discrimination working in this particular situation.” Read more