Supreme Court hears Alabama voting rights case


The Supreme Court on Tuesday is hearing arguments in a high-stakes Alabama redistricting case that could determine the ability of minority voters to use Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act to argue their electoral power has been diminished.

At issue in the case, Merrill v. Milligan, is the map drawn by Alabama in 2021 for its seven seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Currently, only one district is majority-Black, even though Alabama’s population is 27% Black. The sole Black-majority district is the only one represented by a Democrat. Evan Milligan, who grew up in Alabama and is the executive director of Alabama Forward, which describes itself as a civic engagement group, sued, arguing the state should have two Black-majority districts. 

A lower court panel of three judges, two of whom were nominated by then-President Trump, agreed with Milligan that Alabama should draw new maps so that the state has two majority-Black districts. But Alabama argued that the only way to create two majority-Black districts is to focus solely on race, which the state argues shouldn’t be a consideration. 

And earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to halt the redrawing of the congressional map ordered by the lower court, a blow for anti-gerrymandering advocates and Democrats who were hoping to add a second Black-majority congressional district for this year’s midterm elections. The high court stayed the ruling against the 2021 map until it decided the case on the merits.

Voters of color have been able to challenge maps they view as discriminatory under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, as explained by the Supreme Court in the 1980s. Alabama wants the Supreme Court to rewrite the rules for claims made under that section of the act. 

“If I know that I’m voting in a district where no matter how many times I come to vote for certain seats, my vote doesn’t matter because of how the district has been drawn, then there’s little incentive for me to participate,” Mulligan said in a recent interview with CBS News. 

The Alabama case is being heard on the second day of the term, with a court including newly installed Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, who filled the vacancy left by former Associate Justice Stephen Breyer. Jackson is the first Black woman to serve on the high court. 

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