Supreme Court Rules 5-4 to Uphold Voting Rights Act in Alabama Case

June 8, 2023

In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled to uphold the 1965 Voting Rights Act in a case involving Alabama’s seven Congressional districts.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, both conservatives, joined the Court’s three liberal Justices in the majority.

The Court’s ruling rejected an effort by Alabama to make it more difficult to remedy concerns raised by civil rights advocates that the power of Black voters is being diluted by dividing voting districts in a way that allows white voters to dominate.

Roberts wrote for the majority, saying that the decision “simply holds…a faithful application of our precedents and a fair reading of the record before us.” 

While he acknowledged that there were genuine fears that the Voting Rights Act “may impermissibly elevate race in the allocation of political power,” he asserted that the Court’s ruling regarding Alabama “does not diminish or disregard those concerns.” 

The ruling involved two cases related to a Congressional redistricting plan that was adopted by Alabama’s Republican dominated state legislature after the 2020 census.

Even though more than one-fourth of the state’s population is Black, the way the district lines were drawn minority voters would only have a realistic chance of electing the candidate of their choice in one of Alabama’s seven Congressional districts. 

In January 2022, a three-judge district court—including two Trump appointees—ruled unanimously that under the Voting Rights Act, Alabama should have created two compact congressional districts with a majority or close to a majority of Black voters, not one.

The state of Alabama appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that unless there is intentional discrimination, Congressional districts must be drawn without considerations of race, asserting that its redrawn districts had been race-neutral.

“As we explain below, we find Alabama’s new approach to be compelling neither in theory nor in practice. We accordingly decline to recast our case law as Alabama requested,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote for the Court’s majority.

Another major voting rights ruling, Moore v Harper, which will decide whether the so-called “Independent State Legislature Doctrine” in which North Carolina lawmakers assert that a state’s legislators have sole authority over its elections to the exclusion of its governor—or its courts—was still to be announced by the Court as of Thursday morning.

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