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The 2024 campaign for control of the US House was jolted by Thursday’s US Supreme Court decision against a map that limited the ability of Black voters in Alabama to elect their preferred candidates.
The Supreme Court in Allen v. Milligan agreed that the state legislature-drawn congressional district map likely violated the Voting Rights Act‘s Section 2, which bars racially discriminatory election rules. The ruling will affect pending litigation in other states where there are VRA Section 2 challenges against GOP-drawn districts.
“The decision paves the way for fairer maps to be adopted in Alabama, Louisiana and Georgia, which would likely add one additional Black-majority district in each of the three states,” according to an analysis from Democracy Docket, a progressive website that tracks redistricting cases.
Democrats need a net gain of five seats to win control of the US House. Those projected pickups would help them offset almost certain losses in North Carolina, where the Republican legislature plans to implement a map more favorable to their party.
“The key states to watch are Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia and South Carolina,” said analyst Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report with Amy Walter, which immediately changed its race projections to move four seats to “toss up” status from “solid Republican.”
In Louisiana, a federal court ruled in June 2022 the Republican-led legislature must redraw its map to include a second Black-majority district in a state that’s about one-third Black. As it did in the Alabama case, the US Supreme Court blocked that order and allowed Louisiana’s 2022 election to proceed under the GOP map.
In Georgia, a pending VRA Section 2 lawsuit contends that the Black population in the western Atlanta metropolitan area is sufficiently large and compact to form an additional majority-Black congressional district.
And in Texas, a challenge to the Republican legislature’s map alleges it dilutes the voting power of Texas’s people of color after they accounted for 95% of the state’s net population growth during the 2010s. In the 2022 election, Republicans won nine of 14 districts in Georgia and 25 of 38 districts in Texas.
South Carolina’s map has six Republican-leaning districts and one heavily Black district that’s strongly Democratic. The Supreme Court last month said it would review a lower court’s conclusion that the state legislature’s map engaged in unconstitutional racial gerrymandering in violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
In addition, New York Democrats are pushing for a new congressional map in a lawsuit that’s unrelated to the VRA. Oral arguments were heard Thursday in a state court.
Alabama is about 27% Black. After redistricting, Republicans won six of the seven reconfigured districts in the 2022 election, with Democrat Terri Sewell winning the sole Black-majority district. The delegation had the same split in the last Congress.
The southern Alabama seat held by Rep. Barry Moore (R) “could be squeezed the most in any map reconfigured to feature a second Black majority seat,” Wasserman said on Twitter. Moore’s district includes most of Montgomery and is more than 30% Black.
“It’s a small price to pay to carve up my district in order to be able to have two majority-minority districts,” Sewell told reporters Thursday.
The Supreme Court’s decision sends the case back to the three-judge federal court panel, which could direct the Alabama legislature to draw new lines before the 2024 election. Alabama’s primary is next March.
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“As a result of today’s decision, our case moves forward, returning to the trial court for implementation of a fairer congressional map that all Alabamians want and deserve,” Eric Holder, a former US attorney general who’s chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, said in a statement.
Republicans criticized the ruling.
“After losing their House majority by doubling down on an extreme policy agenda, Democrats’ transparent political strategy to rig the game is to ‘sue ‘til it’s blue.’ Republicans will grow our majority in spite of Democrats’ legal end-runs around the voters who rejected their policies last November,” Jack Pandol, the communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in a statement.
“Today’s opinion maintains an indecipherable status quo. The Supreme Court needs to clarify two decades of contradictory precedent on how redistricting plans can comply with both Sec 2 and the Constitution,” Adam Kincaid, the president and executive director of the National Republican Redistricting Trust, said in a statement.
North Carolina Case
North Carolina’s court-drawn congressional map is now before the US Supreme Court in a major election case, Moore v. Harper, that centers on whether state legislatures can regulate federal elections without interference from state courts. Under that interim map, the two parties split 7-7 in the 2022 election.
The high court may moot the case, however, after the North Carolina Supreme Court reversed its earlier decision to reject the Republican legislature’s preferred map.
— With visualization from Seemeen Hashem.
To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Giroux in Washington at email@example.com