Supreme Court Upholds Voting Rights Act In Surprise Victory Over GOP Suppression

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1921

A five-Justice majority on the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against a Congressional district map implemented in Alabama after the last census, concluding that the new district lines violated some of the basic standards established under the Voting Rights Act to ensure effective representation for marginalized communities like Black voters in Alabama.

State officials had originally crafted a map where six of Alabama’s seven districts leaned, population-wise, away from Black communities and into Republican majorities. Though Black residents of Alabama had just a single district in which they were in sufficient number to have a reasonable shot at seeing their community’s electoral choice win, Black residents comprise over one-fourth of the state, and amid litigation ahead of the Supreme Court’s decision, advocates had argued for at least one additional district in Alabama drawn to give Black communities a greater voice. In the new ruling, the Supreme Court’s three Democratic president-appointed members were joined by John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh in rejecting the Alabama state arguments.

As highlighted by NBC News, Roberts wrote in the conclusions for this Alabama dispute that the Supreme Court “simply holds that a faithful application of our precedents and a fair reading of the record before us do not bear them out here.” In other words, they found the issue to be relatively straightforward, and a new map will have to be implemented.

The disputed district lines were used in last year’s midterm elections, helping Republicans win their thin majority in the U.S. House, since — as expected — the party won all but one of Alabama’s seats in that chamber. In making these decisions, the Supreme Court was upholding a decision from lower levels of the federal court system. The conservatively aligned majority currently seated on the Supreme Court meant it was far from a sure thing that the Alabama dispute would turn out this way.

Some of these same Justices have been involved in decisions like an infamous undoing of most of the then-active provisions drawn from the Voting Rights Act calling for a review by federal authorities before the implementation of serious changes to the handling of elections. They’ve also gone the other way, though, like in allowing an assault weapons ban in Illinois to temporarily stand while further legal challenges over the post-midterms state law continue to move forward.