The Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a case that could put another nail in the coffin of the historic Voting Rights Act, first passed in 1965 and intended to eliminate racial discrimination against minority voters and ensure their right to vote.
Since 2013, the Supreme Court has twice substantially annulled or mutilated important parts of the law. An attempt to enact a new Voting Rights Act appointed by the late Rep. John Lewis failed to break a GOP filibuster in Congress.
Now, once again, the 1965 law is on the chopping block, this time on the question of how state legislatures can draw congressional district lines when the state’s voters are distributed by race.
At issue is the Alabama congressional redistricting plan adopted by the Republican state legislature after the 2020 census.
More than a quarter of the state’s population is African American, but in only 1 of 7 districts do minority voters have a realistic chance of electing the candidate of their choice.
African-American voters are concentrated in that district, so they are a large majority there, or they are distributed in the remaining six districts, so that their voting power is diluted. It’s a practice known as “bundling and cracking.”
What Happened to Congressional Districts in Alabama
In January, a three-judge federal court panel ruled unanimously that the constituting electoral districts was illegal under section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which guarantees minority groups equal opportunities to participate in the electoral process and that Alabama could and should have created two compact congressional districts with a majority, or near majority, of black voters: two districts instead of just one.
The state appealed to the Supreme Court, which by a 5-4 vote blocked the lower court’s ruling, which ordered a new map for the 2022 elections, nine months away. That was too much for Chief Justice John Roberts, a longtime critic of the Voting Rights Act but who dissented this time, along with the three liberals on the court. Roberts said he could find “no apparent error” in the way the lower court applied existing precedent.
Countering that argument, African-American voters in Alabama argue that the state’s argument boils down to a backwards proposition: that any effort to eradicate racial discrimination is unconstitutional because it authorizes emphasizing considerations of race on electoral maps.
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Source: La Opinion