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In a surprise ruling, the conservative U.S. Supreme Court ordered Alabama to establish a second congressional district with a majority-Black population. Despite Black residents making up a quarter of the state population, Only one out of seven congressional districts currently have a majority-Black population.
In a 5-4 ruling on Thursday, conservatives Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined the three liberal Justices Ketanji Brown Jackson, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to order Alabama to provide more equitable representation to Black voters, the Associated Press reported.
The ruling comes after the state’s redistricting maps were challenged in court, citing a violation of the Voting Rights Act. The four other conservative Justices dissented from the ruling as many Black voters watching the case worried a loss would result in further weakening of the landmark federal law.
Notably, the Court’s longest-serving justice, Clarence Thomas, who is Black, dissented strongly against giving Black Alabamians a second voting district as he continues to face fallout from secret gifts he received from billionaire Harlan Crowe.
Black Alabama voters to gain new congressional district
Notably, the civil rights law championed by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others in 1965 had already been weakened by a 2013 Supreme Court ruling, which eliminated the rule that states with a history of racial discrimination, mostly in the South, must first get pre-clearance from the federal government before changing voting laws.
Striking down that provision has resulted in states across the South passing new restrictions on voting and establishing congressional maps that weaken the power of Black voters.
Thursday’s win for Black Alabamians comes ahead of the 2024 general elections, giving a new opportunity to one of the largest populations of Black people to have more inclusive participation in democracy.
“Today’s decision confirms the basic principle that voting practices should not discriminate on account of race, but our work is not done,” President Biden said on Thursday. “Vice President Harris and I will continue to fight to pass both the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to restore and strengthen the Voting Rights Act, and the Freedom to Vote Act to ensure fair Congressional maps and that all Americans have their voices heard.”