Following Tuesday‘s (October 4) debate between Alabama legislators and the Biden administration before the Supreme Court, it appears the conservative majority court could side with Alabama regarding its GOP-friendly congressional districting.
During a two-hour debate, the state argued that its congressional map — which will have significant implications in 2024 and beyond — took a “race neutral” approach. The state also argued that it should not be required to sort voters based on race.
The Biden administration flanked by activist groups, pleaded with the justices not to weaken the enforcement of a critical provision in the Voting Rights Act.
Alabama’s congressional map was challenged after a Republican-led legislature redrew district lines to only include one Black majority voting district out of its seven congressional districts, despite the Black population accounting for more than one-fourth of the state’s population.
When the districting was first challenged, a federal district court concluded that the state could have — using traditional districting criteria — drawn a second minority-majority district.
In February of this year, the Supreme Court made its first ruling in favor of the state, issuing a preliminary order allowing Alabama to use its current district map for November’s midterms. It gave a similar order to Louisiana, which is also being pursued to add a second Black majority voting district.
When the case was before a three-judge federal panel, the panel found that the congressional map had violated the landmark Voting Rights Act.
The VRA provision bans a state from enacting voting practices that “result in a denial or abridgment of the right to vote on account of race or color,” stating elections must be “equally open.”
The federal judge panel argued Alabama was violating this provision by drawing a map where most Black voters would form part of one voting district and then spreading out other Black voters among the remaining six districts, artificially diluting their voting power and making it challenging for Black voters to elect a candidate they’d choose.
But during Tuesday’s debate, the fervor hadn’t rolled over onto Supreme Court Justices. Beyond liberal Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, who dominated the debate by asking Alabama legislatures tough questions, others on the panel were less intense.
Fellow liberal Justice Elena Kagan spoke more broadly before querying Alabama Solicitor General Edmund LaCour if the state is “asking us essentially to cut back substantially on our 40 years of precedent and to make this too extremely difficult to prevail on. So what’s left?”
Conservative Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch didn’t participate much. Thomas asked one question, and Gorsuch asked none.
Justice Samuel Alito turned his questioning to the Biden administration, while Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney asked tough questions to both sides.
Although the pair asked questions indiscriminately, the two are still predicted to side with Alabama.