In a surprise ruling, the Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that Alabama must redraw its congressional districts and add a second one with a large Black population, The Associated Press reported.
The decision upheld a lower court’s ruling that said that the state had likely violated the Voting Rights Act when designing the congressional map with one majority Black seat out of seven districts. In Alabama, one in every four residents is Black, the AP reported.
One seat is held by a Black Democrat, The Washington Post reported, while the other six seats are held by white Republicans.
One district had a concentrated Black population while the others had Black voters spread out, diluting their voting power, the AP reported.
Alabama said that the lower court ruling would make them sort voters by race and countered by saying that it had taken a “race-neutral” way to create the districts, the AP reported
The map was allowed to be used for the 2022 elections. Justices initially appeared to make it more difficult to use the Voting Rights Act to challenge redistricting plans that were racially discriminatory. In earlier cases, Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the conservative side of the court in 2013 and 2021.
This time Roberts, along with Justice Brett Kavanaugh sided with the liberal members of the high court in the decision which could have tweaked the Voting Rights Act, according to the AP.
Roberts wrote the decision joined by Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson, The Washington Post reported.
The remaining four conservative justices — Justices Clarence Thomas who wrote the dissent, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett — opposed the ruling
Thomas wrote that the question is if the act “requires the State of Alabama to intentionally redraw its longstanding congressional districts so that Black voters can control a number of seats roughly proportional to the Black share of the State’s population.” He added that the law “demands no such thing, and, if it did, the Constitution would not permit it,” the Post reported.
The current congressional map was drawn in 2021 after the 2020 census was conducted.
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