WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday dealt Alabama Republicans a second defeat in three months, rejecting their latest attempt to use a congressional map that includes a majority black district.
In two related applications, the court rejected urgent requests by Republican state officials to block lower court rulings invalidating the new map. Lower court proceedings to approve the new map are still ongoing.
The decision follows a Supreme Court ruling against the state in June that reaffirmed a key provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act. There were no dissenting votes noted and the court did not explain its reasoning.
“Alabama’s flagrant violation of the Voting Rights Act ends today,” said Aba Khanna, an attorney who helped challenge the maps.
He hoped the decision would “prompt a reconsideration of Alabama’s staunch opposition to equal political opportunity for black Alabamians.”
An earlier ruling by the Supreme Court forced the state to re-draw the board. But the new map — like the previous one — includes only one district in which black voters can elect the candidate of their choice. Alabama has seven congressional districts, and 27% of the state’s population is black.
The new map was tossed out in two separate lower court rulings, with justices saying the Supreme Court’s June ruling required an additional minority-black district.
“We do not know of a state legislature — faced with a federal court order declaring that its election plan unlawfully diluted the minority vote and requiring a plan to provide additional opportunity districting — to respond with a plan that the state would agree not to provide,” one court ruling said.
The new map, with a second majority-black district, will help Democrats in their bid to win control of the House of Representatives in next year’s election, with black people in the state more likely to vote Democratic. The state congressional delegation currently consists of six Republicans and one Democrat.
Two consolidated lawsuits arose from lawsuits over congressional district maps drawn by the Republican-controlled Legislature after the 2020 census. Challengers, including individual voters and the Alabama State Convention of the NAACP, argued that the map violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by discriminating against black voters.
Lower court judges have now ruled repeatedly that plaintiffs have shown that Alabama’s black population is large enough and compact enough to be the second-majority black county under existing law.
Two conservatives — Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanagh — joined a three-liberal majority in the Supreme Court ruling in June.
But the court freed up future challenges to the law, Kavanaugh wrote in a separate opinion, not rejecting challenges to Section 2 of its vote based on whether the 1965 redefinition of the law included a period without authorization to consider race. Justified.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall seized on Kavanagh’s declarations in his request to block the lower court rulings.
He cited the court’s ruling in June to end the consideration of race in college admissions as an example of why a remedy for historical racial discrimination that was once legal and justified no longer applies.
Challenger lawyers argued in court documents that the state has made no effort to draw a second majority-black district, even though that is the only solution under existing law.
“The state has no right to enforce a congressional map that clearly violates clear decisions of the district court and this court,” they wrote.