U.S. Supreme Court backs black voters in Alabama electoral map challenge

By John Kruzel

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday awarded a major victory to black voters who challenged a Republican-drawn electoral map in Alabama, finding the state violated a landmark federal law banning racial discrimination in the vote.

The 5-4 ruling upheld a lower court’s ruling that the card diluted black Alabam’s voting power, violating a fundamental US civil rights law of 1965. on voting rights. Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the ruling, which was joined by the court’s three liberals as well as Conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

With the ruling in the dispute over the makeup of U.S. House of Representatives districts in Alabama, the conservative-majority court chose not to further override the protections contained in the Voting Rights Act as it did. had made in two major decisions over the past decade.

At issue in the case was the map approved in 2021 by the Republican-controlled state legislature setting the boundaries of the seven US House districts in Alabama. The map featured one majority black district, with six majority white districts.

The Voting Rights Act was passed at a time when Southern states, including Alabama, had policies preventing black people from voting. Nearly six decades later, race remains a contentious issue in American politics and society at large.

States and conservative groups successfully pushed the Supreme Court to limit the scope of the Voting Rights Act. His 2013 ruling in another Alabama case struck down a key element that determined which states with a history of racial discrimination needed federal approval to change election laws. In a 2021 ruling approving Republican-backed voting restrictions in Arizona, judges made it harder to prove violations under Section 2.

In Thursday’s decision, two cases consolidated in the Supreme Court involved challenges brought by black voters and advocacy groups accusing the state of violating Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, a provision aimed at to counter measures that result in racial bias in voting even absent racist intent.

The challengers said the Alabama map reduces the influence of black voters by concentrating their voting power in one district while distributing the rest of the black population in other districts at levels too small to form a majority. .

A three-judge federal court panel in January 2022 sided with the challengers, blocking the Republican-drawn map as a “substantially likely” violation of Section 2 and ordering an additional district where black voters constitute ” a majority of voting age or something close enough to that.” Alabama then appealed to the Supreme Court.

Alabama officials argued that drawing a second district to give black voters a better chance of electing their preferred candidate would itself be racially discriminatory by favoring them at the expense of other voters. If the Voting Rights Act required the state to consider race in this way, according to Alabama, the law would violate the equal protection guarantee under the 14th Amendment Act of the US Constitution.

Democratic President Joe Biden’s administration and a number of voting rights groups that backed the plaintiffs had said a ruling in favor of Alabama would threaten some electoral districts in other states — for the House of United States and state legislatures – potentially diminishing the representation of minorities in American politics.

Electoral districts are redrawn every decade to reflect demographic changes as measured by a national census, last taken in 2020. In most states, this redrawing is done by the ruling party, which can lead to a manipulation of the card for partisan purposes.

In a landmark 2019 decision, the Supreme Court barred federal judges from curbing this practice, known as partisan gerrymandering. This decision did not prevent judicial review of racially discriminatory gerrymandering.

Democrats have accused Republicans of pursuing state-level policies aimed at suppressing racial minority voting. Republicans said they were acting to prevent voter fraud. Additionally, high-profile cases of black people killed by police have fueled the ongoing debate in the United States about racial justice.

(Reporting by John Kruzel in Washington; Additional reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham)

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