Supreme Court to Decide Alabama Redistricting Case

In Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama and Alabama Democratic Conference v. Alabama the Supreme Court will decide whether Alabama’s redistricting plan violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause by intentionally packing black voters into districts already containing a majority of black voters. 

The Alabama legislature’s 2010 redistricting plan maintains the number of House and Senate majority-black districts.  But because most of the majority-black districts were underpopulated, the Legislature “redrew the districts by shifting more black voters into the majority-black districts to maintain the same relative percentages of black voters in those districts.” Black voters allege that packing them into super-majority districts limits their potential influence in other jurisdictions.

Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act prohibits vote dilution, where the legislature enacts a voting scheme that intentionally minimizes or cancels out the voting potential of racial or ethnic minorities.  The Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause prohibits gerrymandering, or separating voters into districts based on race.

Two district court judges rejected the argument that vote dilution or racial gerrymandering occurred in this case.  Race wasn’t the predominate motiving factor in creating the districts, instead the legislature “maintained the cores of existing districts, made districts more compact where possible, kept almost all of the incumbents within their districts, and respected communities of interest where possible.” 

A dissenting judge disagreed.  Judge Thompson opined that the drafters set a quota that they would not decrease the percent of black voters in any district.  To achieve these quotas, the legislature “eliminated existing districts, created conflicts between incumbents, ignored legislators’ preferences, and split of huge volume of precincts.”

Redistricting in compliance with the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution is a perennial issued for state legislatures.