Alabama State Attorneys Say Creating Two Black Congressional Districts Would Be Unconstitutional

Republicans point to the Supreme Court’s affirmative action ruling to defend what opponents say is a Voting Rights Act violation.

Lawyers representing Alabama in a Voting Rights Act dispute argued in a legal brief that it would be unconstitutional to create two majority-Black congressional districts to satisfy court rulings.

Alabama’s GOP-controlled legislature revised the state’s congressional map in July after a surprise U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June upheld a lower federal court decision, which ordered Alabama to create a second district where Black voters are the majority “or something quite close to it.”

However, voting rights advocates argue that the revised map conflicts with the court’s order to comply with Voting Rights Act principles.

The Montgomery Advertiser reports that the Aug. 4 brief defends the state’s decision not to create a second majority-Black district based on the high court’s ruling in June that outlawed affirmative action in college admissions.

In the brief, the Alabama Attorney General’s Office argued that the legislature would have to draw new districts along racial lines, which would contract the principles outlined in the Supreme Court’s affirmative action ruling.

“All that’s left to justify Plaintiffs’ race-based affirmative action in redistricting are arguments about ‘past societal discrimination,’ but perpetuating present-day race-based redistricting to redress past race-based discrimination violates ‘both the letter and spirit of a constitutional provision whose central command is equality,’” the 65-page brief stated, according to The Advertiser.

In what opponents say was a defiant move, Republican state lawmakers on July 21 approved new district lines with only one majority-Black district out of seven districts statewide, even though Alabama is 27 percent Black.

In the revised map, the legislature increased the percentage of Black voters from 31 percent to almost 40 percent in the majority-White 2nd Congressional District, while decreasing the Black voting-age population in the state’s only majority-Black district to 50.65 percent.

Supreme Court Orders New Congressional District Map In Victory For Black Alabama Voters

“The Alabama Legislature believes it is above the law. What we are dealing with is a group of lawmakers who are blatantly disregarding not just the Voting Rights Act, but a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court and a court order from the three-judge district court,” a statement from a group of voters who won the Supreme Court case against Alabama said after lawmakers passed the revised map, the Associated Press reported.

In January 2022, a lower court ruled that legislators should have drawn districts in a way that gave Blacks a majority in two of the state’s seven congressional districts. They said the map likely violated the Voting Rights Act by denying Black voters a fair chance to elect a representative of their choice.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld that ruling in a 5-4 split decision. Two of the court’s conservative justices – Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh – sided with the three justices on the court’s liberal wing to reaffirm the Voting Rights Act, which the high court gutted in its 2013 Shelby County v. Holder ruling.

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