Alabama Activists Press Voting Rights in U.S. Supreme Court Showdown

The new congressional map in Alabama devised by the Republican-controlled state legislature realistically only lets Black voters elect their preferred candidate in just one district.

Evan Milligan, a voting rights activist and organizer, has sued alongside other plaintiffs to challenge the map in a case now headed for arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 4.

Milligan said the state capital Montgomery, his hometown, is a tale of two cities. On one side of Montgomery, Black voters have been placed in only one of Alabama’s seven U.S. House of Representatives districts where they represent the majority. 

And on the other side, the city’s remaining Black voters reside in a different House district where they are vastly outnumbered by white voters. 

The plaintiffs accused the legislature of designing the map to dilute the clout of Black voters by confining their power to a single district, despite the fact that Alabama’s population is 27 percent Black. This new map is in violation of the Voting Rights Act, the plaintiffs have argued. 

The landmark 1965 federal Voting Rights Act prohibits racial discrimination in voting. It was enacted at a time when Southern states, including, Alabama enforced policies blocking Black people from casting ballots.

A lower court has already agreed with the plaintiffs. 

The state of Alabama’s appeal defending the map is set to be argued on the second day of a new nine-month term for the Supreme Court. 

But the Supreme Court is now massively conservative-leaning, with a 6-3 conservative majority. Conservatives have long expressed skepticism toward racial preferences in American society designed to counter past or ongoing discrimination.

The eventual ruling could cripple the Voting Rights Act, whose passage was fueled by historic marches for Black voting rights and the violent response by local authorities in Alabama from Selma to Montgomery. 

The Supreme Court already undermined the law in a 2013 ruling in another case from Alabama.

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