Sen. Rodger Smitherman
Sen. Rodger Smitherman compares U.S. Representative district maps during the special session on redistricting at the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Nov. 3, 2021. The Supreme Court has put on hold a lower court ruling that Alabama must draw new congressional districts before the 2022 elections, boosting Republican chances to hold six of the state’s seven seats in the House of Representatives. (Mickey Welsh/The Montgomery Advertiser via AP, File)
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The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) just sent a chilling message to Black voters in Alabama: You don’t deserve equal representation. With a brief ruling, SCOTUS allowed a newly-drawn congressional voting map in the southern state to proceed — a map with only one majority-Black district across the entire state. The new ruling allows White Republican voters to preserve their near-total majority in Alabama.

Hence, Alabama’s new map not only maintains a sweeping GOP advantage but also refuses to recognize Black representation.

Black citizens make up 27% of the state’s population and now only one of Alabama’s seven congressional districts. 

Just recently, Black voters in Alabama won a victory with a state Supreme Court ruling that the new map must be changed to provide two majority-Black voters congressional districts. But SCOTUS stayed an objection from the Alabama GOP, allowing the original map to move forward.

The stay comes on the heels of the U.S. Congress refusing to pass The Freedom to Vote Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

Why It Matters Now

This move is particularly galling because 2022 is an election year. While SCOTUS has agreed to hear the entire case, it will not rule until after the 2022 midterm elections.

The Alabama case is just the first brought by a state regarding redrawn political districts following the 2020 census. The effects of the ruling could reverberate across the country. Henceforth, many states have redrawn maps based on population and demographic changes. 

Justice Elana Kagan’s Rebuke

In a dissent about Black voters, Justice Elena Kagan wrote furiously about the stay.

“That decision does a disservice to Black Alabamians who under that precedent have had their electoral power diminished. “She then added, “in violation of a law this Court once knew to buttress all of American democracy.”

Reliably progressive, Justices Sonia Sotomeyer, Stephen Breyer and Chief Justice John Roberts agreed.

The law that Justice Kagan refers to is the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which struck down White-instituted barriers for Black citizens to vote, including literacy tests, and even being forced to recite the constitution. 

Most state laws allow for the party in the power to draw their own congressional district voting maps, despite the fact that this often leads to gerrymandering, or politicians hand-picking their own districts. Both parties are guilty of attempting to create maps in their favor. And with a slim Democrat majority in Congress going into midterm elections, the stakes have never been higher. 

Democrats and the NAACP in Alabama have vowed to fight on. “The facts are clear: Alabama’s current congressional map violates the Voting Rights Act. The litigation will continue, and we are confident that Black Alabamians will eventually have the congressional map they deserve — one that fairly represents all voters,” Deuel Ross, senior counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, said. 

Erika Stone is a graduate student in the Master of Social Work program at the University of Oklahoma, and a graduate assistant at Schusterman Library. A Chess Memorial Scholar, she has a B.A. in Psychology...