The Supreme Court on Monday upheld an Alabama redistricting map drawn by the Republican-held legislature after a federal appeals court panel blocked it over apparent violations of the Voting Rights Act.
By a 5–4 vote, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the court's three-member liberal bloc in dissent, justices halted the lower court order, preserving the redrawn map, which critics said diluted black votes.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh, one of five Republican-appointed justices who voted to keep the GOP-favored map, wrote that the court's stay would allow justices to consider the case fully.
"The stay will allow this Court to decide the merits in an orderly fashion — after full briefing, oral argument, and our usual extensive internal deliberations — and ensure that we do not have to decide the merits on the emergency docket," Kavanaugh wrote in an opinion joined by Justice Samuel Alito.
ALABAMA ASKS SUPREME COURT TO REINSTATE REPUBLICAN-FRIENDLY CONGRESSIONAL MAP
Kavanaugh also pushed back against dissenters who claim the map guts voting rights without a complete briefing from both parties — a point highlighted by Justice Elena Kagan, who called the decision "a disservice to our own appellate processes."
"It does a disservice to the District Court, which meticulously applied this Court's longstanding voting-rights precedent," Kagan wrote. "And most of all, it does a disservice to Black Alabamians who under that precedent have had their electoral power diminished — in violation of a law this Court once knew to buttress all of American democracy."
Alabama filed an appeal directly to the Supreme Court last month in a bid to uphold the redrawn map and prevent the likelihood of Democrats gaining a second seat in the state. Alabama's current House delegation has six Republicans and one Democrat.
Last month, a three-judge panel on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes two judges appointed by former President Donald Trump, ordered lawmakers to redraw a map with "two districts in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it."
Alabama has a black population of about 27%, which, in direct numerical terms, would come out to two seats — about 29% of the total in the seven-member delegation.
The 11th Circuit panel ruled on Jan. 25 the initial map was likely in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act for only including one district that gave black voters the opportunity to elect a candidate of their preference. Days later, Republican Secretary of State John Merrill filed a petition to the Supreme Court asking to uphold the map.
Section 2 of the VRA states it is illegal to deny members of a racial minority equal opportunity to elect preferential representatives, which states widely interpret as requiring lawmakers to draw districts where nonwhite voters are the dominant voting bloc.
Civil rights advocates filed lawsuits in November challenging the GOP-drawn map and alleging lawmakers used map-drawing techniques such as "cracking" and "packing," forms of gerrymandering that effectively create voting districts for partisan advantage.
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Challengers of the GOP-drawn map also drew four proposed versions with two majority-black seats, showing several possibilities to meet the 11th Circuit's order.
In 2019, the Supreme Court denoted partisan gerrymandering as a political issue that federal courts should not adjudicate. However, the decision in Rucho v. Common Cause left room to hear cases related to racial gerrymandering.