Alabama’s controversial congressional ticket is now in the hands of the Supreme Court. But regardless of the outcome of the case, it could transform voting rights across the South.
Nathaniel Rakich: Alabama is perhaps best known as the epicenter of the civil rights movement. But nearly 60 years after pro-suffrage advocates marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, black Alabamaans are still underrepresented in Congress.
Under the state’s new congressional map drawn by Republicans, only one of the state’s seven counties is predominantly black. But the 2020 census found blacks are reconciling almost two sevenths of the voting-age population of Alabama.
So this card is likely a violation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which was passed in part as a result of the demonstrations in Selma and elsewhere in Alabama. While minority groups are not automatically entitled to proportional representation in the House of Representatives, the Voting Rights Act required that they have equal opportunities to elect representatives of their choice.
That was broadly interpreted This means states must draw districts where non-white voters form the dominant voting bloc whenever possible. And in Alabama, it’s easily possible to draw two majority-Black congressional districts.
So pro-voting rights advocates sued over the card, and in January they got the verdict they had hoped for: a three-judge panel found that the card was most likely an illegal racist gerrymander knocked it downand ordered the Alabama Legislature to draw a new map which includes “[s] two districts where black voters either have a voting-age majority or come pretty close.”
Alabama promptly appealed the ruling to the US Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case — but they won’t make a decision this year. And in the meantime, the court has reinstated the rigged card – meaning it will be used in the 2022 midterm elections.
The Supreme Court’s decision in this case will have huge national ramifications. If it agrees that Alabama’s map violates the Voting Rights Act, it won’t just result in another Black Opportunity seat in Alabama. Several other southern states — such as Louisiana and South Carolina — could also be forced to draw additional black seats.
However, given the Supreme Court’s conservative stance, the court is more likely to uphold Alabama’s current map. And it’s hard to imagine how she could do that while maintaining the current interpretation of the Voting Rights Act. It’s possible, then, that the court could set a new precedent for the law — one that significantly weakens its requirement to draw minority districts.
The Voting Rights Act was one of the most successful laws in US history; Just look at the number of black congressmen elected since the law was passed in 1965! But the Supreme Court has gutted Main sections of the law in the last few years, to the point where his demand for minority districts is one of the only sensible safeguards left. An unfavorable judgment in The Fall could be the final nail in his coffin. The Voting Rights Act was born in part as a result of calls for more voting rights in Alabama, and ironically, it may well die that way.