Alabama Rut Map

Alabama finally gets a new voting map after Republican defiance

Finally, the Supreme Court’s surprise ruling on voting rights has led to a new congressional map in Alabama that complies with the law. But it’s important to remember that it happened despite state Republicans’ defiant quest to avoid compliance, and it underscores that the high court’s GOP appointees let an illegal map be used before a divided court ultimately affirmed the Voting Rights Act. 

Recall that in June, the justices ruled 5-4 to uphold a lower court decision that required the state draw a map with two majority-Black voting districts, or something close to it. Instead, Alabama Republicans doubled down to such a degree that the lower court’s three-judge panel — two of whom are Donald Trump appointees — said it was “disturbed” by the state’s actions. Undeterred, the state complained to the Supreme Court, which last month rejected the desperate plea to bail Republicans out of having to comply with the court’s decision issued just months earlier. 

That set in motion the lower court’s approval of a new map that does what the state wouldn’t, in providing two (instead of just one) so-called Black opportunity districts. Even then, only one has a majority-Black voting population, but the other, in tracking the ruling the state tried to ignore, comes closer to it.

As NBC News reported, Thursday’s ruling “is also a win for Democrats, who are expected to win the seat next year.” That takeaway further underscores the case’s sordid history, because before the Supreme Court’s surprise 5-4 ruling in June upholding the Voting Rights Act, Justice Brett Kavanaugh went the other way on the shadow docket, in a 5-4 ruling early last year that allowed the illegal map to be used in the 2022 midterms.

It’s crucial to keep that history in mind as Republicans plot against voting rights while litigation continues around the country, including in Louisiana, and as the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments Wednesday in a racial gerrymandering case from South Carolina.

Ultimately, the Alabama fight shows that, in the face of ongoing GOP attempts at voter suppression, it comes down to which version of the Supreme Court shows up on a given day.

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