WASHINGTON, D.C. (NBC) – In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court struck down Republican congressional district maps in Alabama that voting rights activists say discriminate against Black voters.
The major ruling Thursday upholds the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 that outlawed discrimination based on race.
The surprise 5-4 ruling from the conservative court has Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh crossing over to vote with the three liberal justices.
The decision strikes down Republican-drawn congressional districts in Alabama that civil rights activists say diminished Black voting power by cramming a majority of African American voters into one district out of seven even though Alabama’s population is more than a quarter Black.
Those maps will now be redrawn.
Alabama argued it was taking a “race-neutral” approach instead of sorting voters by race.
Justice Clarence Thomas agreed arguing the Constitution does not guarantee “the proportional allocation of political power on the basis of race.”
But the majority ruled that it doesn’t matter whether the state’s intent was to discriminate racially what matters is that was the effect.
That could send a message to other states redrawing their congressional boundaries, particularly in the quickly-growing South.
Michael Waldman with the Brennan Center for Justice said, “Overwhelmingly that population growth comes in communities of color and they’re not being represented in the maps that legislatures have drawn.”
However, Justices Roberts and Kavanaugh both argued for a narrow interpretation of their ruling, leaving open future challenges to the law.
The political implications of this ruling could be significant.
If you look at the 2022 midterms, Republicans won six of seven House seats in Alabama while Democrats won the sole majority-Black district.
Because Black voters by and large are more likely to vote for Democrats, a second seat could make a difference with the razor-thin balance of power in the House.
© 2023 KOBI-TV NBC5. All rights reserved unless otherwise stated.