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Nelson Analyzes Supreme Court Argument in Alabama Redistricting Challenge

Friday, November 14, 2014

Janai Nelson, Associate Director-Counsel at LDF, pens an analysis  of two consolidated Alabama election law cases before the Supreme Court, and their potential impact on election laws across the nation.

"The Supreme Court typically hears at least one significant election law case each term and the consolidated cases of Alabama Democratic Caucus v. Alabama and Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabamawhich the Court heard on Wednesday, certainly fill that marquee. As you can glean from the identity of the two petitioners, this case has compelling partisan implications. But race, which continues to bedevil the Court’s election law jurisprudence, is really at the fore."

"Alabama Democratic Caucus is the first case involving the Voting Rights Act that has come before the Court on the merits since the Court gutted Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder just last year. The added twist, of course, is that the primary defense of the challenged Alabama districting plan is that the line drawers were attempting to comply with that now-defunct provision of the VRA. The Court did not spend much time on this nuance or address what post-Shelby Section 5 compliance looks like. Nonetheless, this case may serve as a bellwether of the Court’s continued receptivity toward the principles established to protect minority voting strength under Section 5."

"This is also the first time that the Court is considering a racial gerrymandering claim since its 2006 decision in LULAC v. PerryLULAC is the Texas mid-decade redistricting case in which the state legislative plan was struck down because it intentionally discriminated against blacks and Latinos. Nearly a decade later, the Court has an opportunity to demonstrate that it can still distinguish race from politics, even as it has reversed course on its protection of the VRA, and discern when a constitutional violation has occurred." 

Read the full analysis as a guest blog on Hamilton and Griffin on Rights.