Supreme Court to Kick Off New Term with Major Redistricting Case

At the beginning of what is certain to be a historic Supreme Court term, the Court will hear oral arguments next Tuesday in Merrill v. Milligan, a case that considers whether Alabama’s 2021 congressional maps violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

Much drama unfolded earlier this year when Alabama’s newly adopted congressional maps were challenged. Now, the Supreme Court will hopefully resolve the issue once and for all, and with it, clarify how race should be considered in the redistricting process.

After Alabama passed its new congressional maps at the start of the year, liberal groups immediately sued, alleging the new maps violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by discriminating against minority voters. A three-judge panel at the federal District Court agreed with the plaintiffs, struck down Alabama’s new maps, and appointed a special master to draw new districts for the state. The United States Supreme Court then stepped in, enjoined the District Court’s order, and upheld Alabama’s congressional map 5-4 for the November elections, agreeing to hear the challenge on the merits in the upcoming term.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall had high praise for the Supreme Court’s enjoinment of the District Court’s order, especially since Alabama’s “new” congressional maps reflected prior maps that federal courts approved in the past:

I’m gratified that the Supreme Court has stepped in to halt the district court’s order, which would have resulted in a congressional map that would have unconstitutionally divided Alabamians based on race…As we have explained throughout this litigation, Alabama’s 2021 plan is an ordinary plan that looks much like the plan approved by a federal court in 1992, the plan approved by a majority-Democratic legislature in 2001, and the plan approved by a majority-Republican legislature in 2011.

Several groups filed amicus briefs at the Supreme Court—including Lawyers Democracy Fund, an organization dedicated to promoting common sense election rules that bolster voter confidence. Numerous amici asked the Court to provide clear redistricting standards in the future so that states can avoid unnecessary litigation.

Clear standards are important so that race-neutral principles are encouraged in redistricting, especially since liberal groups try to use race as a one-way ratchet. Attorney General Marshall explained why it is so important for the Supreme Court to establish clear standards for redistricting under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, especially as liberal groups try to upend race-neutral principles:

Plaintiffs demand a significant overhaul to the map to create a second majority-Black district, but their own experts showed that no such map could be drawn unless traditional race-neutral principles took a back seat to voters’ race. Indeed, one expert used her algorithm to draw two million random versions of Alabama’s map based on race-neutral principles and not a single one had two majority-black districts. That is why each of the plans proposed by Plaintiffs would split Mobile County for the first time ever, to join voters in Mobile with voters as far away as Phenix City, based on race, all while dividing long-recognized communities centered on the Gulf Coast’s unique economy and culture.

Hopefully, the Court will take this opportunity to clarify redistricting standards. To hear more about Merrill v. Milligan and other important case before the Supreme Court this term, join RNLA on Friday at 2:00 PM for its Supreme Court Preview. Register here!