The conservative majority on the Supreme Court very likely decided control of the House of Representatives.
Kevin McCarthy should consider sending Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas holiday cards. The incoming razor-thin Republican majority in the House of Representatives – the exact size of which is still unknown – can thank the United States Supreme Court.
Utilizing the shadow docket, the Supreme Court issued a stay, reversing a lower court’s ruling that forced the state of Alabama to comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in time for the midterm elections. At issue is whether Alabama is compelled to create a second black-majority congressional district in a state where over a quarter of the population is black. It’s a case that we previously covered back in January.
“Black people drove a disproportionate share of Alabama’s population growth. Throughout last year, Black Alabamians publicly called on the Legislature to recognize this reality and sought equal representation in Congress,” said NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Senior Counsel Deuel Ross.
The Brennan Center calls the Supreme Court’s intervention “dangerous,” noting that SCOTUS was setting the stage for overturning four decades of precedent that has resulted in greater representation for non-white voters.
Michael Li, Senior Counsel at the Brennan Center, writes:
The case centers on whether Alabama has an obligation under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act to create a second district where Black voters have a reasonable opportunity to elect community-preferred candidates. Black Alabamians are currently 27 percent of the state’s population, but under the map passed by the Republican controlled Alabama legislature, have the ability to successfully elect candidates in only one of the state’s seven congressional districts.
This anomalous result is the product of a carefully constructed two-step maneuver. First, lawmakers packed a large portion of Black Alabamians into the sprawling, heavily Black 7th Congressional District, which joins much of the state’s historic Black Belt with parts of both Birmingham and Montgomery. For the rest of the state, map drawers then surgically divided Black voters among the remaining six white-majority districts. The outcome is a map where the 7th District is more than 56 percent Black, but where no other district is more than 30 percent Black, well below the level needed for Black Alabamians to sway elections given the high levels of racially polarized voting in the state.
The Alabama case resulted in federal courts allowing racially gerrymandered maps to go into effect in Georgia and Louisiana. A federal judge found that Georgia’s Congressional map likely violated the Voting Rights Act but cited the Supreme Court’s decision in the Alabama case to allow the map to remain in place for the 2022 elections. The Supreme Court itself intervened after a federal court ordered Louisiana to redraw its racially gerrymandered maps.
All told, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Alabama directly resulted in at least three fewer black-majority districts in the South – seats that were all but guaranteed to go to the Democrats. Beyond those seats, it’s important to point out that gerrymanders in Florida, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wisconsin cost the Democrats between a half dozen and a dozen seats.
In 2019, the conservatives on the Supreme Court decreed that federal courts could not rule on partisan gerrymanders but left the door open to ruling on racial gerrymanders. With its shadow docket rulings in Alabama and Louisiana, it looks as if those guardrails against racially-discriminatory maps are now gone as well.
We are a nation of laws, but it is increasingly obvious that the United States Supreme Court is bending our nation’s laws to benefit one particular political party.
Photo Credit: Wally Gobetz, Flickr