SCOTUS takes on voting rights case

WASHINGTON, D.C. (NBC) – With midterms just over a month away, the Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments on a case involving the Alabama electoral map and redistricting that could negatively impact Black voters in the state.

Tuesday’s arguments present a test for the conservative-leaning court with more voting rights cases to come.

This case could ultimately weaken the landmark Voting Rights Act by making it easier for states to defend against claims of racial gerrymandering.

In a case with far-reaching implications for voting rights and racial bias, the Supreme Court is hearing a dispute over Alabama’s Congressional District map that the plaintiffs argue dilutes minority voting power by cracking the “Black Belt.”

Senior Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Deuel Ross said, “Which is an important Black community in Alabama that has been discriminated against for as long as there’s been an Alabama.”

A lower court found the map likely violates the Voting Rights Act OF 1965 by redrawing lines to concentrate Black voting power in just one House district while distributing the rest too broadly for Black voters to have influence.

Alabama state officials are asking to reverse that ruling.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) said, “The fundamental position for the state today is our legislature acted properly.”

Alabama Solicitor General Edmund LaCour argued the state redrew its maps in a “lawful, race-neutral manner.”

“That wasn’t good enough for the plaintiffs,” LaCour said. “They argued that Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act requires Alabama to replace its map with a racially gerrymandered plan maximizing the number of majority-minority districts.”

The court’s newest justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson, pushed back on that stance noting the Constitution’s 14th Amendment was aimed at ensuring formerly-enslaved Black people received equal treatment under the law.

“That’s not a race-neutral or race-blind idea,” Jackson said.

The plaintiffs—the Alabama NAACP and individual voters—rallied with activists outside the Supreme Court.

Ashley Shelton with the Power Coalition said, “Let’s stand, let’s fight, and let’s make sure that we uphold the rights that we currently have.”

A state steeped in this nation’s civil rights movement is now central in the continued struggle over voting rights.

There is another major voting rights case on the horizon for this conservative-leaning court. The next, an effort by Republicans to revoke the ability of state courts to review election laws under their states’ constitutions.

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