The Supreme Court of the United States annuls the electoral map of Alabama for discriminating against the black vote | International
The Supreme Court of the United States has annulled this Thursday by surprise the electoral map of Alabama on the grounds that it discriminates against the black vote. In a state with a 27% African-American population, the state legislature, dominated by the Republican Party, drew districts for the House of Representatives elections in which black voters were only a majority in one of the seven constituencies. A divided court confirms the sentence of a lower court that annulled that map.
The case Allen vs. Milligan It has been closely watched for its potential to undermine the historic Voting Rights law and activists feared a ruling contrary to their interests, but the Supreme Court's conservative majority has unexpectedly broken in deciding the case. Two of its magistrates have sided with the three progressive judges in the decision, made 5-4. The sentence is signed almost entirely by the president of the court, John Roberts. His opinion has been joined by the also conservative Brett Kavanaugh and the progressives Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson. The other four conservative magistrates have opposed it and have formulated dissenting opinions.
In the United States, the census is reviewed every 10 years and states have the power to set electoral districts based on population. They do it in a way that favors their party (a practice known as gerrymandering, very widespread). When the Alabama state legislature presented its aggressive map, activists filed an appeal led by Evan Milligan, director of the Alabama Forward organization.
The district court, remembering the long and "disgusting" history of discrimination in that state, ordered that the redrawing include a second majority black district as a way to avoid discrimination and taking into account that said population is sufficiently grouped to make it possible . Alabama appealed through its Secretary of State, Wes Allen.
Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act prohibits electoral discrimination based on race, but, turning the argument around, Alabama claimed that its electoral map had not been shown to be racially motivated and that drawing a second district of a black majority would precisely violate the right to equality enshrined in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, since it would force race to be taken into account for it.
The Supreme rejects that thesis: "The Court refuses to redo its jurisprudence in line with Alabama's 'racially neutral benchmark' theory," it proclaims, later explaining that "according to Court precedents, a district is not equally open when minority voters face—unlike their majority counterparts—a block vote along racial lines, arising in the context of substantial racial discrimination within the state, which makes the vote of a minority is unequal to the vote of a voter not belonging to a minority”.
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Roberts is careful to point out that this does not change the Court's jurisprudence, that it is a case in point, and that one should not draw the wrong conclusions: “The Court's opinion does not undermine or ignore the concern that Section 2 [de la ley del Derecho al Voto] may unacceptably elevate race in the allocation of political power within states. Instead, the Court simply holds that a faithful application of the precedents and a fair reading of the record do not confirm those concerns in this case.
Section 2 prohibits voting procedures that "result in a denial or restriction of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on the basis of race." It is violated “if, based on the totality of the circumstances, it is shown” that members of a minority “have fewer opportunities than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and elect the representatives of their choice”.
The other four conservative justices have opposed the majority decision and have posted dissenting opinions. In that of Judge Clarence Thomas, an African American, it is stated that the decision requires “Alabama to intentionally redraw its electoral districts so that black voters can control a number of seats approximately proportional to the proportion of the black population of the State. Section 2 does not require such a thing, and if it did, the Constitution would not allow it."
The Supreme Court rejected in July a precautionary suspension of the new drawing and those districts now declared null were used in the legislative elections on November 8. Republicans won six of Alabama's seven seats, losing the election only in the majority-black one.
The attorney general, Merrick Garland, has applauded the sentence through a statement: “Today's decision rejects efforts to further erode fundamental protections of the right to vote, and preserves the principle that in the United States all voters with right to vote must be able to exercise their constitutional right to vote without discrimination based on race. Joe Biden's government sided with voting rights activists in the proceedings.
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