The Alabama state legislature’s newly redrawn congressional district map was challenged by Democrat-aligned interest groups as being in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act for ostensibly diluting the power of black voters.
A panel of district court judges recently agreed and issued an injunction blocking Alabama’s new district map, but the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday issued a stay on that injunction while taking up the case, effectively allowing the new map to go into effect for the 2022 elections, The Washington Free Beacon reported.
The high court ruled 5-4 in favor of the state, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining his three liberal colleagues in opposition. In fact, Roberts penned a brief lone dissent while Justice Elena Kagen, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, wrote a more thorough dissent, and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, joined by Justice Samuel Alito, wrote an opinion concurring with the decision.
Redrawn district map challenged under federal Voting Rights Act
At issue here, according to the Free Beacon, were complaints that the new map included only one district with a majority of black voters when the state’s demographics suggested there should be at least two majority-black districts.
As such, it was argued that Alabama’s new map violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, in that the power of black voters outside of the single black-majority district was diluted in comparison to the power of white voters in the other districts.
Lawyers for the state countered that the new map closely resembled the last two maps created by the legislature, both of which passed muster with the Voting Rights Act, but that had failed to sway the district court judges that had issued an injunction to block the new map from being implemented.
According to SCOTUSblog, the district court panel had ordered the state to redraw its new map to include a second black-majority district and, if the state was unable or unwilling to do so in a timely fashion, the court would appoint an “expert” to do it on behalf of the state.
Concurrence and dissent on court-issued stay of injunction
In the 21-page ruling, which included Kavanaugh’s concurrence along with the pair of dissents from Roberts and Kagen, the various views of the justices were explained in some detail.
Kavanaugh wrote how the stay blocking the injunction was necessary in light of what is known as the Purcell doctrine, which discourages federal courts from intervening in state election issues at the last moment, and noted that doing so would cause undue “chaos and confusion” given that filing deadlines and primary elections were mere weeks away.
Kagen, in dissent, had argued that the case appeared to be a clear violation of federal voting laws and that there was sufficient time for the state to redraw its map in accordance with the court without causing any significant disruption to the imminent deadlines and elections.
Roberts, in his solo dissent, had acknowledged some “uncertainty” with regard to the lower court ruling and the alleged violation of federal law, and also noted that he looked forward to the high court fully considering the matter, with briefs and oral arguments, at a later date, though he would not block the injunction in the meantime.
The Free Beacon noted that the Supreme Court’s stay in favor of Alabama could diminish the chances of success for current or planned similarly racially-centered Democratic challenges to redrawn district maps in Republican-led states like Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, and South Carolina.