by Brittany Raymer
Former Digital Writer & Editor
On the first day of its new session, the Supreme Court of the United States heard a voting rights case with racial undertones from Alabama. Depending on the outcome of the decision, it could potentially have a detrimental impact on the future elections in the country.
The case concerns the redistricting that occurred in Alabama in 2021, after the 2020 U.S. census. According to the plaintiffs, the state redrew the map along racial lines, dividing up black majority areas and forcing most to vote in areas where there are generally more white voters. The state currently has seven representatives, but only one is in a black majority district. To the plaintiffs, this doesn’t make sense as African Americans make up 27% of the population.
They instead want the state to create two majority black districts, because without this change the state has violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
In court filings for the case, officially dubbed Merrill v. Milligan, the plaintiffs claim that the redistricting was an “intentionally discriminatory scheme to pack and crack black voters into Congressional districts in a manner that prevents the creation of a second majority-Black district. Plaintiffs further allege that this scheme is unconstitutional because race was the predominant motive in the drawing of the only majority-Black Congressional District (‘CD’) 7 in a way that is not too narrowly tailored to comply with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.”
The initial decision at a district court ruled that the redistricting could be considered unconstitutional and told the state to redraw the map within two weeks. Alabama then appealed to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in an emergency request to reverse the decision of the lower court. Thomas agreed to let the current maps remain in place while the court makes up its mind.
In previous writings, Thomas has stated his dislike of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which is at the heart of the plaintiff’s case. He believes it “involved the federal courts, and indeed the Nation, in the enterprise of systemically dividing the country into electoral districts along racial lines—an enterprise of segregating the races into political homelands that amounts, in truth, to nothing short of a system of political apartheid.”
Depending on what the court decides, this case could have huge implications for the country and voting districts in future elections.
The idea that the plaintiffs are presenting is that every American, or those of a particular racial makeup, should have the power to influence who wins an elected position. Since 27% of Alabama is black, that should be reflected in the number of their Representatives.
Evan Milligan, who grew up in Alabama and is part of the team filing suit against the state, argued, “If I know that I’m voting in a district where no matter how many times I come to vote for certain seats, my vote doesn’t matter because of how the district has been drawn, then there’s little incentive for me to participate.”
It’s probably not possible to split a person or create the appropriate number of districts to give the plaintiffs or any other minority group exactly what they think they deserve when it comes to their elected officials, but the core of their argument is rather dangerous.
Equality is no longer the right to vote, but seemingly the right to ensure that the odds are stacked in your favor so that a candidate that fits a certain racial criteria can assure victory.
Unfortunately, the reality is that sometimes, depending on the area that you live in, it may always seem like your vote has little to no value.
It’s like living in Washington State as a conservative. The vast majority of people are liberal, especially in the western half of the state, and you vote every time knowing the state and national elected officials will be Democrats. But that’s life living in a democracy.
Every election gives people the opportunity to have their voices heard, but there’s nothing in the Constitution that guarantees that their candidate will succeed. From those who vote for Green Party representatives to a liberal living in the generally conservative deep South, there will be people who vote and yet almost never see their preferred candidate win.
The danger of this case is perhaps setting a precedent where race or another set of criteria is a critical part of determining the make up a particular district.
For a moratorium on voting in North Carolina in 2020, keep an eye out for Dr. Andy Jackson’s upcoming report, which will be posted here.