Feb 7, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court lets stand GOP-drawn Alabama congressional map

Photo of John Roberts in a mask and his Supreme Court robes while standing in a chamber with hands clasped
Chief Justice John Roberts arrives before a joint session of Congress on April 28, 2021. Photo: Michael Reynolds/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Monday voted 5-4 to halt a lower court order requiring Alabama to redraw its congressional districting maps.

Why it matters: The lower court had ruled that the GOP-led state legislature's maps likely violated the Voting Rights Act (VRA) by diluting Black voting power.

  • "Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress," the lower court judges had written.
  • Alabama had until Feb. 11 to create a new map but appealed the decision.

The GOP-drawn map will be used in the 2022 election. And the high court, which agreed to hear the Republican appeal, likely won't hear oral arguments in the case until its new term begins in the fall.

What they're saying: "When an election is close at hand, the rules of the road must be clear and settled," Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in a concurrent opinion joined by Justice Samuel Alito.

  • "Late judicial tinkering with election laws can lead to disruption and to unanticipated and unfair consequences for candidates, political parties, and voters, among others," Kavanaugh wrote.

But, but, but: "Accepting Alabama’s contentions would rewrite decades of this Court’s precedent about Section 2 of the VRA," Justice Elena Kagan wrote in the dissent joined Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.

  • "Staying its decision forces Black Alabamians to suffer what under that law is clear vote dilution."
  • Citing "considerable disagreement and uncertainty regarding the ... vote dilution claim," Roberts wrote in his own dissent that the lower court’s analysis should "control the upcoming election" but subsequent elections should be "governed by this Court’s decision on review."

Catch up quick: Civil rights advocates sued Alabama last November after the state legislature released its map, which has one single majority-Black district that includes "part of Birmingham and some of the Black Belt in Alabama," according to the ACLU.

  • "While Black people are about 27% of Alabama’s population, they are represented in only one of seven (14%) congressional districts," ACLU notes.
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