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Supreme Court Restores Alabama’s Redistricting Plan For 2022

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


The U.S. Supreme Court has blocked a lower court order that would have forced Alabama to draw a new congressional map with two districts likely to elect Democratic House members.

“The high court’s decision Monday to leave the Republican-controlled state legislature’s redistricting plan in place for the 2022 elections split the justices, 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the court’s liberals in opposing the ruling. The congressional redistricting plan is likely to produce a 6-1 Republican advantage in the state delegation, the same as it is now,” Politico reported.

“Not all members of the majority explained their rationale for stepping in to allow the state to implement its new map. But Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Samuel Alito signaled that they believed an order from a panel of three federal judges, which required redrawing the state’s congressional districts, would cause too much disruption with primary elections set for May 24 and absentee balloting in those races set to open March 30,” the outlet added.

“That line of reasoning suggests that, for this election, the Supreme Court may be unlikely to green-light changes to other state congressional maps sought in Voting Rights Act lawsuits in the coming months,” the outlet continued in its report.

Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Samuel Alito filed a separate opinion to say they weren’t deciding the merits of the vote-dilution claim but argued the primary and general elections were too close to disturb the state’s preferred map.

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“It is one thing for a State on its own to toy with its election laws close to a State’s elections,” they wrote. “But it is quite another thing for a federal court to swoop in and re-do a State’s election laws in the period close to an election.”

“Filing deadlines need to be met, but candidates cannot be sure what district they need to file for. Indeed, at this point, some potential candidates do not even know which district they live in. Nor do incumbents know if they now might be running against other incumbents in the upcoming primaries,” Kavanaugh and Alito wrote. “When an election is close at hand, the rules of the road must be clear and settled.”

Justice Roberts, who voted with the liberal wing of the court, said he agreed with the lower court ruling that found Alabama’s map in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

“In my view, the District Court properly applied existing law in an extensive opinion with no apparent errors for our correction,” Roberts wrote in a solo dissent.

“While the District Court cannot be faulted for its application of Gingles,” Roberts wrote, referring to a key 1980s Supreme Court ruling that laid out how to adjudicate vote dilution claims for minority groups, “it is fair to say that Gingles and it progeny have engendered considerable disagreement and uncertainty regarding the nature and contours of a vote dilution claim.”

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Taking issue with Kavanaugh, liberal Justice Elana Kagan argued that the lower court ruled months before any votes will be cast.

She criticized the conservatives for using the emergency application “to signal or make changes in the law, without anything approaching full briefing and argument.”

“Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress,” the Birmingham court said in a unanimous opinion issued by U.S. Circuit Judge Stanley Marcus, a Clinton appointee, and U.S. District Judges Anna Marie Manasco and Terry Moorer, both Trump appointees.

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