In A Shocking Move, The Supreme Court Rules In Favor of Black Alabama Voters

In A Shocking Move, The Supreme Court Rules In Favor of Black Alabama Voters

On June 8, in a surprising 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled to uphold the provisions of the Voting Rights Act, requiring the majority Black states’ congressional maps represent its population, AP News reported. This move follows Alabama’s Republican-led effort to eliminate such requirements, thereby further eroding the Voting Rights Act, which has already sustained two major blows within the last decade. 

More than a quarter of Alabama’s population is African American. Despite this, Black voters have a very slim chance of electing their preferred candidate, NPR reported. In January, a three-judge federal court, two of which were appointed by former President Trump, unanimously decided that Alabama create two compact congressional districts with either a majority or near-majority Black assembly. The state subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court. 

The state argued that unless there was intentional discrimination, congressional districts should not account for race, and claimed that Alabama need not create a new map for the upcoming elections. However, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s decision, mandating that Alabama create a new map preceding next year’s elections. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined the Supreme Court’s liberal justices in the decision. 

In what would have been a devastating blow to the already fragile act, the Supreme Court has instead upheld one of the few remaining provisions that maintain the integrity of the overall Voting Rights Act. Its decision has many Americans surprised, as the majority conservative court has not done so in the past. 

Previously, the Voting Rights Act required states that maintained a history of discriminatory voting practices to establish new election laws that must first be reviewed by either a federal court or the Department of Justice. However, in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that Congress used outdated facts in requiring that nine states receive federal approval for voting rule changes affecting racial minorities, Reuters noted. The provision that worked to eliminate such harmful practices was then abolished.

In Abbot v. Perez in 2018, and again in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee in 2021, the Supreme Court ruled that state legislators must receive a presumption of good faith. In 2022, Justice Samuel Alito established five criteria to determine if election laws were discriminatory under Section Two, criteria that many activists and election attorneys believed were regressive to future challenges.

Given the Supreme Court’s past rulings, many Americans expressed shock at its most recent ruling, particularly at Justice Roberts, who had previously voted to diminish the efficacy of the Voting Rights Act. Still, it is not a finished battle as elections loom in the coming year.