Supreme Court lets GOP-drawn Alabama congressional map stay in place
The trial court had ordered a new map drawn, which could have given Democrats another House seat in the fall.
Chief Justice John Roberts joined the three dissenting Liberal justices.
The justices also said they would hear arguments on the card, adding another potentially explosive question – regarding the scope of a key provision of the Voting Rights Act – to the court’s docket.
The court order, the first relating to the 2022 election, means the map will be used for the state’s next primary and will likely be in place for the entire election cycle, while the legal challenge unfolds.
The order suspends the opinion of a three-judge panel that found the Alabama map likely violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act because it includes only one district where voters blacks have the opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh, writing for himself and fellow conservative Justice Samuel Alito, said the court acted to maintain the status quo while the justices consider the matter. Kavanaugh said the court order “does not make or signal any change” to the Voting Rights Act.
But Roberts, who once again found himself on the side of the court’s three liberals, said that if he agreed that the court would consider the matter for the next term in order to “resolve the wide-ranging uncertainties in the case, he would have allowed the district court opinion to stand while the appeals process unfolded. The Supreme Court will hear the full case next fall.
“The District Court correctly applied the existing law in a thorough opinion without apparent error for our correction,” Roberts wrote.
Justice Elena Kagan, writing for fellow liberals Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, wrote a much more forceful dissent.
Kagan said the majority was “seriously mistaken” in granting Alabama’s request to freeze the lower court’s opinion and that the court’s decision “forces black people in Alabam to suffer what, in under the law, is a clear dilution of the vote”. She said the ruling would undermine a key section of the Voting Rights Act.
She also said the court shouldn’t issue such a hard-hitting order on her emergency case (which critics call her “shadow case”) without a full briefing and closing argument.
“Today’s decision is just one more in a long, bewildering list of cases in which this Court uses its parallel role to point out or make changes to the law, with nothing approaching a briefing and d ‘a complete argument,’ she said.
She said the court’s action “does a disservice” to black people in Alabam who “have seen their voting power diminished — in violation of a law this court once knew to buttress all of American democracy.”
A dispute over how courts apply Voting Rights Act cases in redistricting
Alabama’s congressional redistricting plan was challenged under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, a VRA provision that has been a crucial tool for voting rights advocates after the Supreme Court gutted another section of the law that required some states to get federal approval for its maps.
The lower court panel, which included two justices appointed by former President Donald Trump, said Alabama was required to draw a second district where blacks made up or near the majority of voters. Their ruling underscored Supreme Court precedent on how VRA redistricting cases should be handled.
Alabama, in seeking Supreme Court intervention, argued that race had been improperly used in proceedings to determine whether Alabama was required by law to draw a second majority district. minority.
“A reduction could have major negative implications for the representation of African Americans and other racial minorities in Congress, in state legislatures and in local bodies across the country, making it more difficult to require jurisdictions than they draw districts where minority voters can elect representatives of their choice,” Hasen, a law professor at the University of California-Irvine, wrote on the Election Law Blog.
This story has been updated with additional details.