Today, in a 5-4 decision, written by Justice Breyer, the U.S. Supreme Court rekindled a voting rights suit against the state of Alabama involving the use of race in a 2012 redistricting plan. Specifically, the Court remanded a pair of cases to a district court to make a specific district-by-district determination about whether a Republican-drawn legislative plan intentionally packed Black voters into a few super-majority-minority districts to limit Black voters’ electoral opportunity in Alabama.
Importantly, the Supreme Court rejected the district court (and Alabama’s) erroneous understanding of the requirements of the Voting Rights Act. The Supreme Court agreed with the position taken by the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund (LDF) in its amicus brief that the Voting Rights Act does not require fixed percentages of Black voters in electoral districts nor does it prohibit all reductions in the population of Black voters in districts. As Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of LDF stated, “Today’s decision, involving legislative redistricting in Alabama, recognizes that the Voting Rights Act, celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year, protects Black voters’ ability to elect their representatives of choice.” Janai Nelson, Associate Director-Counsel of LDF continued, “For 50 years, in Alabama and throughout our country, the Voting Rights Act has prevented jurisdictions like Alabama from taking actions during the redistricting process that minimize the electoral strength of Black voters. We are pleased that the Supreme Court recognized the Voting Rights Act’s critical role in ensuring political opportunity for Black voters.” Indeed, LDF was particularly disheartened to see Justice Thomas, in his dissent, single out “special interest groups like the ACLU” as having somehow “hijacked” the Voting Rights Act. Rather, such “civil rights organizations, including LDF, on behalf of Black voters have relied on the Voting Rights Act for more than a half-century in Alabama and elsewhere to expand access to democracy for Black and other voters of color to the benefit of our nation.” said Leah Aden, Assistant Counsel at LDF.