Saturday, September 23, 2023

In Close Call, Court Upholds Voting Rights Act


The Supreme Court of the United States handed down a 5-4 decision Thursday, striking down a voting map in Alabama that diluted the power of Black voters, The New York Times reports.

16th Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, Ala. (philfoster440/iStockPhoto)

The Alabama legislature developed a congressional districting map for the state’s seven districts, with Black voters in the majority in only one district. Activists and others challenged the map, noting that the state’s Black population had reached about 26 percent. They said putting Blacks in the majority in only one district out of seven seemed unfair and potentially unconstitutional.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority, affirming that race may play a role in redistricting. The ruling demands that Alabama redraw its map to give Blacks a majority—or something close to it—in at least one other congressional district.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a scathing dissent, asserting that the Court’s decision “does not remedy or deter unconstitutional discrimination in districting in any way, shape or form.”

In a case four years ago involving both Maryland and North Carolina, the Court ruled that gerrymandering based on political party was constitutional, holding that “partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts.” Chief Justice Roberts wrote in his majority opinion that states and Congress could pass laws to prevent politically oriented districts but asking the courts to do so would be “an unprecedented expansion of judicial power.”

But when it comes to racial discrimination, the Court has now found that it is entirely within the scope of federal courts to rule on the constitutionality of districting in reference to Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, a key civil rights law from the 1960s. The law prohibits any government action that “results in a denial or abridgment of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race.”

Other states that have drawn race-diluting maps may also be affected, including Georgia and Louisiana.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.


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