Alabama's Race-Based Gerrymandering Plan Called Into Question By Supreme Court

| by Kathryn Schroeder
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Alabama’s redistricting plan to place an abundant amount of black Democrats in some districts has been called “legally erroneous” by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Alabama Republican-controlled state legislature argues that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 required the state to maintain a percentage of black voters in majority black districts, despite population shifts.

In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court’s majority questioned the state legislature’s argument.

Justice Stephen Breyer, writing on behalf of the majority, said the law doesn’t prescribe “a particular numerical minority percentage,” The Wall Street Journal reports.

Breyer said the Voting Rights Act requires Alabama “to maintain a minority’s ability to elect a preferred candidate of choice.”

That goal could be achieved without placing a large amount of black voters into districts where they constitute more than 70% of the electorate, Breyer said.

The plan by the state legislature has been viewed as a way to strengthen the GOP control of the statehouse by reducing the number of districts where Democrats could compete as blacks in Alabama have overwhelmingly voted Democrat, while whites usually favored Republicans.

The plan would have black majority districts total eight seats in the 35-member state Senate, and 27 in the 105-seat state House of Representatives.

"State officials say they had no choice but to concentrate black voters in some districts, making neighboring seats more white and apt to elect Republicans,” NPR reports.

The Supreme Court’s decision does not stop the plan, but it will send the case back for further hearings before a lower court.

The current district lines remain in place while the litigation proceeds.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said his office “will continue defending the state’s legislative districts,” amidst his disappointment with the Supreme Court’s decision. He noted that its decision “did not invalidate the redistricting plan as a whole or any specific district.”

Sources: The Wall Street Journal, NPR 

Photo Source: Politics USA, AP via The Wall Street Journal