After the Supreme Court’s redistricting decision, black voters are waiting for new maps
The Supreme Court’s decision to side with black voters in an Alabama redistricting case has given Democrats and voting rights activists a surprise opportunity ahead of the 2024 election.
The new congressional maps should include more districts in Alabama and perhaps other states where black voters would have a better chance of electing someone of their choice, a decision widely seen as benefiting Democrats.
It’s been more than three months since Justice’s 5-4 ruling, and maps that could produce more districts represented by Black lawmakers are still lacking.
Alabama Republicans hope to get a new hearing on this issue before the Supreme Court. Republican lawmakers in Louisiana did not bother to draw a new map.
Khadida Stone, the plaintiff in the Alabama case, said the continued opposition is “horrifying” but “not surprising.” She pointed out that Alabama is where the state’s governor was at the time. George Wallace banned black students from integrating into the University of Alabama in 1963.
“There is a long history of disobeying court orders to deprive black people of their rights,” she said.
A similar dynamic is evident in Florida, where Republicans are appealing a ruling in favor of black voters to the Republican-majority state Supreme Court.
Lawsuits over racially gerrymandered congressional maps in several other states, including Georgia, South Carolina and Texas, quickly followed the Supreme Court’s landmark decision on the Voting Rights Act in June. But continued pushback by Republican legislatures that control redistricting means there is great uncertainty about whether or when new maps that provide equal representation for black voters will be drawn.
Whether the Republican strategy proves to be a defiance of court orders to overturn the Supreme Court or a clever political move will become clearer over the next month.
Sean Donahue of the State University of New York at Buffalo, an expert on voting rights and redistricting, said the Supreme Court could quickly put an end to the delays and “summarily affirm” the decision of a lower court panel that rejected Congress’ recent decision in Alabama. a map. This map continued to present only one majority black district out of seven in a state where black residents make up 27% of the population.
“You can kind of say to some (judges), ‘You know what, I didn’t agree, but this is the ruling,'” Donahue said.
The Supreme Court could also agree to hear Alabama’s appeal, returning the state’s redistricting plans to the court less than a year after it filed its opinion in the previous case.
Republicans want to keep their map in place while the state continues to fight a lower court ruling ordering them to create a second district in which black voters are or are close to the majority. The state claims the Supreme Court did not establish such a remedy and that the new map complies with the court’s decision by fixing problems it identified — such as how the state’s Black Belt region is divided into multiple districts.
“Survival is assured before voters are counted into racially gerrymandered districts that are inherently odious,” the state Attorney General’s Office wrote in the stay request.
The stakes are high. With Republicans holding a narrow majority in the US House of Representatives, redistricting issues have the potential to shift control of the chamber next year.
Shortly after its decision in the Alabama case, the Supreme Court lifted its hold on a similar case in Louisiana, raising hopes among Democrats that the state would have to draw another majority-black congressional district.
But even if the court rejects Alabama’s latest plan, it would not necessarily put an immediate end to the case in Louisiana, where U.S. District Judge Shelley Dick ruled a second, majority-black district must be formed.
Your three-day hearings are scheduled to begin on October 3. But her initial order blocking the 2022 congressional map drawn by Louisiana’s GOP-controlled Legislature — which maintains a white majority in five of six districts in a state where about a third of voters are Black — remains on appeal. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear arguments on October 6.
Louisiana lawyers say the black communities that the plaintiffs and the district court are seeking to include in the second majority-black district are too remote, even under Alabama precedent.
Louisiana said in its argument that the Supreme Court’s decision in the Alabama case “did not provide a free pass to future plaintiffs to determine (Voting Rights Act) liability without demonstrating that the relevant minority population is coherent per se.”
Voting rights advocates suing the state say the plans they have proposed so far are “on average more compact” than the plan the state is trying to maintain.
Stuart Naifeh, one of the plaintiffs as part of the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said in Louisiana the court is only considering the maps drawn by the plaintiffs because the Legislature chose not to draw any. Louisiana State Rep. Sam Jenkins Jr., a Democrat, said he is optimistic now that the matter is in the courts.
“We had the opportunity to do the right thing, which would have been fair to all Louisianans,” he said. “I’m disappointed that the court still has to come in and make our state do what’s right.”
State Sen. Royce Duplessis, a Democrat, said Louisiana’s argument against creating a second district is less meritorious than Alabama’s. Louisiana has only one black-majority congressional district out of six even though black residents represent a third of the state’s population. That single region includes New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
“These are two different cities, two different districts, different interests and needs, and it makes sense to have these two large communities to anchor the individual congressional districts,” Duplessis said. “We have shown that there are many ways to draw a map with two majority-black districts that meet all the criteria for fair redistricting.”
A similar case is taking place in Florida, but not in federal court.
A state judge ruled earlier this month that a redistricting plan pushed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, the GOP presidential candidate, must be redrawn because it reduces the ability of black voters in North Florida to choose a representative of their choice.
The state is appealing that ruling, and the case may quickly go to the Florida Supreme Court, where five of the seven justices were appointed by DeSantis. Both sides are requesting a quick solution before the next legislative session in case districts need to be redrawn for the 2024 elections.
The new map knocked Democratic U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, who is black, out of office by gerrymandering his district and dividing a large number of black voters into conservative districts represented by white Republicans. DeSantis asserted that the previous district only extended 200 miles to connect Black communities, violating constitutional standards for compactness.
Angie Nixon, a black state representative from Jacksonville, was one of the Democratic lawmakers who led a protest against DeSantis’ map. She said she remains hopeful that the state Supreme Court will ultimately achieve the outcome voting rights groups want.
Nixon said the groups were organizing themselves to get more people involved.
“We will use this opportunity to serve as a catalyst to get people moving and get people out to vote,” she said.