A surprise Supreme Court win for black voters could give Democrats an electoral boost

The Supreme Court’s unexpected affirmation of part of the Voting Rights Act wasn’t just a win for black voters in Alabama — it could also send new Democrats to Congress in no less than four months. states, the lawyers said, as the precedent is applied in similar cases around the country.

The court, split 5-4, struck down Alabama’s congressional map on Thursday, agreeing with a lower court that the state had diluted the power of black voters by drawing just one black-majority district as there were enough voters for two seats.

Chief Justice John Roberts and fellow Conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh sided with the court’s three liberals.

The state’s Republican-controlled legislature will be tasked with redrawing Alabama’s seven congressional districts so that they include two majority black — and heavily Democratic — seats in the state’s so-called black belt. The area is named for its dark, fertile soil that was cultivated by the enslaved ancestors of many of Alabama’s black voters.

The decision strengthened the Voting Rights Act of 1965, landmark legislation that ensured electoral representation for people of color in America, and its impact will extend far beyond the region.

Thursday’s ruling surprised many court observers and suffrage advocates, largely because the Supreme Court has a 6-3 conservative majority that has often ruled against suffrage groups. In February 2022, the court ordered Alabama in a preliminary ruling to use the disputed map in the midterm elections, suggesting it was likely to ultimately decide for the state.

A similar case over Louisiana’s congressional map is expected to force state lawmakers to draw a second black district there, while courts in Georgia and Texas weigh similar challenges to the law’s Section 2 maps of federal redistribution.

The changes may well affect which party controls Congress: Republicans only have a five-seat majority heading into 2024, and the continued battles over Congressional cards could be the difference in another election. tight.

“I think you’re going to see changes to a lot of these maps – if not all of these maps – in a short time,” said John Bisognano, chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee and the National Redistricting Foundation, which has supported some of the plaintiffs. who disputed the Alabama maps.

Abha Khanna, an attorney at the Elias Law Group, which represents plaintiffs in the Alabama dispute and other voting rights cases, said “there are reasons to be confident in these cases” at the following the Supreme Court’s decision.

“Attempts by state defendants to see if they can manipulate the law and change the law because the facts don’t add up on their side have been completely thwarted,” she said.

Michael Li, a redistricting expert at New York University Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice, said he expects at least three new black districts to emerge in the South due to Thursday’s decision.

State and local offices may also change hands. The congressional challenges are among about three dozen expectations across the country.

“That doesn’t mean all will now be successful — not everything will be as straightforward as it was in Alabama, and it remains to be seen how the court will deal with more complicated fact patterns,” Li said.

The American Civil Liberties Union alone has seven cases in addition to the Alabama dispute that involve local, state or congressional district maps that could be affected by Thursday’s ruling.

Louisiana is most directly affected by Alabama’s decision, and is expected to follow Alabama in redrawing the maps.

In June 2022, the Supreme Court, following a similar approach to its handling of the Alabama case, allowed Republicans to use a map of Louisiana’s six districts that a judge struck down because it didn’t had only one instead of two districts where black voters would have had a good chance of electing the representatives of their choice. Using the new map, Republicans won five of six districts in November’s midterm elections.

This case has been stayed in the Supreme Court pending the outcome of the Alabama case. Following Thursday’s ruling, the court is now likely to allow Louisiana’s decision to take effect, giving Democrats a chance to win a second seat.

The Georgia case, in which plaintiffs say there should be an additional majority black district in metro Atlanta, is tentatively scheduled to go to trial in September, a schedule the court says has been set to give it time to review the Supreme Court’s decision in Allen v. Milligan.

Texas’s challenge is earlier in the court process than those in other states. Bisognano said he could create up to five “coalition districts”, in which several minority groups come together to elect representatives of their choice.

In a statement after the ruling on Thursday, Rep. Suzan DelBene of Washington, Democratic Congressional Committee Chair, said the ruling will help “deliver a House of Representatives that better reflects the diversity of our nation,” but she did not. not commented specifically. on any potential number of seats.

Jack Pandol, the communications director for the Republican National Congressional Committee, said Democrats were trying to “rig the game” and “go on until it’s blue,” but he predicted that “Republicans will increase our majority despite the Democrats’ legal endgames.”

Even though the decision appears to favor Democrats, it’s still unclear whether it will lead to the creation of enough new Democratic-leaning majority districts to have a big impact on future elections, said rights attorney Sophia Lin Lakin. voting at the ACLU.

“There will be a lot of litigation around every sentence of this ruling,” she said.

This article originally appeared on NBCNews.com

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