Newswire: U. S. Supreme Court rejects Alabama’s bid to use congressional map with just one majority-Black district

 Alabama voter holds up a voting sticker issued at the polls

By Lawrence Hurley, NBC News

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday handed a defeat to Alabama Republicans for the second time in three months, rejecting their latest attempt to use a congressional map that includes only one majority-Black district.
The court in two related applications refused emergency requests from Republican state officials to block lower court rulings that invalidated the new map. Lower court proceedings to approve a new map are still ongoing. Today, a Special Master chosen by the appellate court, delivered three maps, with two majority Black voting age population districts, before the Supreme Court ruling.
The decision was in line with the Supreme Court ruling against the state in June that reaffirmed a key provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act in rejecting the state’s first effort to draw congressional district boundaries.
There were no noted dissenting votes and the court did not explain its reasoning.
“Alabama’s open defiance of the Voting Rights Act stops today,” said Abha Khanna, a lawyer who helped challenge the maps. She expressed hope that the decision might “prompt Alabama to rethink their dogged resistance to providing equal political opportunities to Black Alabamians.”
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, a Republican, doubled down on the state’s approach, saying in a statement Tuesday that both maps the state has drawn should have been upheld.
“It is now clear that none of the maps proposed by Republican supermajorities had any chance of success. Treating voters as individuals would not do. Instead, our elected representatives and our voters must apparently be reduced to skin color alone,” he said.
“We will comply with the district court’s preliminary injunction order, while building our case for the 2023 map, which has yet to receive a full hearing. We are confident that the Voting Rights Act does not require, and the Constitution does not allow, “separate but equal” congressional districts,” AG Marshall concluded.
The Supreme Court’s earlier ruling forced the state back to the drawing board. But the new map — like the previous one — includes only one district where Black voters are likely to be able to elect a candidate of their choosing. Alabama has seven congressional districts, and 27% of the state’s population is Black.
The new map was thrown out in two different lower court rulings, with the judges saying an additional minority-Black district was required, in line with the Supreme Court’s June ruling.
“We are not aware of any other case in which a state legislature — faced with a federal court order declaring that its electoral plan unlawfully dilutes minority votes and requiring a plan that provides an additional opportunity district — responded with a plan that the state concedes does not provide that district,” one of the court rulings said.
A new map with a second majority-Black district could help Democrats in their bid to win control of the House of Representatives in next year’s election, with Black people in the state more likely to vote Democratic. There are currently six Republicans and one Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation.
The two consolidated cases arose from litigation over the congressional district map the Republican-controlled Legislature drew after the 2020 census. The challengers, including individual voters and the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP, said the map violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by discriminating against Black voters.
Lower court judges have now repeatedly ruled that under existing law plaintiffs had shown that Alabama’s Black population was both large enough and sufficiently compact for there to be a second majority-Black district.
Two conservatives — Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh — joined the three liberal justices in the majority in the Supreme Court ruling in June.
But the court did leave open future challenges to the law, with Kavanaugh writing in a separate opinion that his vote did not rule out challenges to Section 2 based on whether there is a time when the 1965 law’s authorization of considering race in redistricting is no longer justified.
Marshall seized upon Kavanaugh’s pronouncements in his request to block the lower court rulings. He also cited the court’s decision in June to end the consideration of race in college admissions as an example of why a remedy for historical race discrimination that may have once been lawful and justified is no longer appropriate.

Concerns raised that ‘dark money’ behind trying to get Justice Brett Kavanaugh to change his vote in case Milligan plaintiffs ask SCOTUS to deny Alabama’s appeal for a stay in redistricting case

 Alabama Redistricting map, which creates two possible Black voting age majority districts

From reports by Patrick Darrington and Bill Britt, Alabama Political Reporters

On Tuesday, attorneys representing the Milligan plaintiffs in the Allen v. Milligan suit filed a response to the U.S. Supreme Court asking the court to deny Allen’s emergency request for a stay that was filed last week with the high court.
Two weeks ago, a federal district court ruled that Alabama’s 2023 congressional map passed by the legislature in July failed to create a “remedy” to the previous map’s dilution of Black voting power. Secretary of State Wes Allen on behalf of the state filed an appeal to stay that decision but the district court refused the stay prompting Allen to make an emergency request to the Supreme Court to freeze the decision.
In June of 2023, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5 to 4 decision , with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh voting with the three liberal judges: Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson, that Alabama had violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by not redistricting to allow Black voters a chance to select two of the seven Alabama Congresspersons, when Black people were 27% of the Black voting age population in the state.
The Alabama State Legislature in August 2023 held a Special Session on redistricting and produced a Congressional Redistricting Map which did not create two districts that could elect a Black candidate, in defiance of the Supreme Court and a special three judge appellate court in Alabama. In part, the Alabama Legislature was hoping for a rehearing of their case by the Supreme Court, with the possibility of flipping the vote of Justice Brett Kavanaugh and declaring Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act unenforceable.
Bill Britt of Alabama Political Reporters has found a connection between Leonard Leo, Director of the Federalist Society and other groups, dark money supporters of a conservative agenda on the Supreme Court, personal vacation trips and other benefits offered to Justices Thomas, Alito, and others by billionaires with business interests before the courts, the Republican leaders of the Alabama Legislature, Alabama District Attorney Steve Marshall, and others. This group is pushing to get the Alabama redistricting case back before the U. S. Supreme Court, so they can influence Justice Brett Kavanaugh to change his vote and kill the Alabama two district redistricting plan.
The Alabama redistricting case has national implications for the future composition and control of the U. S. House of Representatives, since there are similar redistricting cases in Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, Arkansas, North Carolina, and other states to create opportunities for the election of Black candidates, who are likely to be Democrats replacing incumbent Republican Congresspersons. The Republicans currently control the House of Representatives by a five-seat majority which could evaporate if redistricting is done in these southern states.
U. S. Supreme Court considering the State of Alabama’s emergency appeal
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who handles cases from Alabama, gave the Allen vs Milligan plaintiffs in the litigation until Sept.19 to issue their response to the stay. The counsel for the plaintiffs did so and in their filing stressed that Alabama defied both the district court and Supreme Court’s previous rulings.  Much of the response argues the map put forth by the state plainly fails to remedy issues with the prior map by not implementing two majority Black districts as was ordered.
“The Secretary of State (Wes Allen), and legislative defendants, are free to make whatever arguments they wish to the Special Master about their preferred redistricting criteria for formulating the remedial map,” the filing stated. “What the Secretary cannot do is pretend this motion is something other than what it is: a request to defy this court’s decision by implementing a “remedy” that cures nothing and prevents Black voters from having an opportunity to elect candidates of their choice in a second congressional district. The Court should deny Alabama’s application for stay pending appeal and summarily affirm the district court’s decision below.”
In June, the Supreme Court sided with the district court and ruled in Allen v. Milligan that Alabama’s 2021 congressional map likely violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and diluted Black voting power. The district court ordered Alabama to create a second majority, Black district or “something close to it.” Yet, Alabama defied this order backed by the Supreme Court and kept only one majority Black district. 
The state has attempted to argue they were trying to keep intact “communities of interest.” The Milligan counsel attacked this argument in the filing stating the legislature changed the criteria and factors involved with determining “communities of interest” and that those communities are not a “trump card” to ignore Section 2 or the creation of a second majority Black district.
“More fundamentally, nothing in the law justifies treating state-selected communities of interest as a “trump card” that overrides compliance with [Section 2] or nullifies Plaintiffs’ showing that Black Alabamians are geographically compact enough to comprise a reasonably configured second opportunity district,” the counsel wrote. “To the contrary, a rule that made certain retrofitted, attorney-identified communities of interest or map-drawing requirements inviolable would radically rewrite the [Section 2] inquiry, which “for more than forty years … has expressly provided that a violation is established based on the ‘totality of circumstances.’”

The response also mentioned the peculiar nature of how Alabama passed the Senate version of the congressional map and the state’s confidence in getting the case heard “anew” by the Supreme Court. APR originally reported in July this was due to high ranking ALGOP members including Attorney General Steve Marshall acquiring “intelligence” Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh could potentially flip his vote to overturn Section 2 of the VRA. 

However, new reporting from APR has discovered the dark money connections supporting this disobedience. in D.C. supporting the ALGOP’s deliberate disobedience of Supreme Court orders and attempts to overturn Section 2 of the VRA. 
The report details connections between far-right figure Leonard Leo labeled the “hidden architect of the Supreme Court”, Marshall, Solicitor General Edmund LaCour and a D.C. law firm called Consovoy McCarthy. Leo is infamous for supporting high stakes political challenges to attempt to overturn Supreme Court decisions like Roe and it appears he is now attempting to support an upheaval of voting rights law.
“These previously unreported connections between Alabama officials who led the state’s 2023 redistricting process and various players seeking to reshape America may be the reason Alabama’s Republican-controlled legislature gambled on a rehearing before the U.S. Supreme Court,” Bill Britt wrote, “in hopes their inside intelligence was right in believing Kavanaugh would change his previous vote in Allen v. Milligan.”
In Allen’s stay request he asked the Supreme Court to decide by at least Oct. 4 in hopes the current map will be used in the upcoming election cycle. The Milligan attorney closed their brief by stating Alabama’s actions would harm substantial portion of the public.
“Alabama’s flagrant disregard of court orders and significant lack of responsiveness” to a sizeable portion of the electorate harms the strong public interest in protecting the right to vote and the rule of law.”


Newswire : Supreme Court invalidates Alabama’s Republican-drawn Congressional Districts, citing Voting Rights Act

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

In a surprising decision on Thursday, the Supreme Court struck down Republican-drawn congressional districts in Alabama, ruling that they discriminated against Black voters.
The 5-4 vote means state officials must redraw the heavily Republican-favored map of Alabama’s seven congressional districts.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, both conservatives, joined the court’s three liberals in the majority.
The ruling by the court, which currently holds a 6-3 conservative majority, marks a departure from the state’s attempt to make it more challenging to address concerns raised by civil rights advocates regarding the dilution of Black voters’ power in states like Alabama, where voters are divided into districts where white voters dominate.
The cases brought before the court were consolidated and originated from the litigation over the new congressional district map, which the Republican-controlled Alabama Legislature drafted after the 2020 census.
The challengers, including individual voters and the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP, argued that the map violated Section 2 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act by discriminating against Black voters.
Under the new map, only one out of seven districts would likely enable Black voters to elect a candidate of their choice.
The NAACP contended that Alabama, with a population of over a quarter Black residents, should have at least two such districts and presented evidence supporting the feasibility of drawing an additional majority-Black district.
In January 2022, a lower court agreed with the challengers, ruling that the plaintiffs had demonstrated, in line with Supreme Court precedent, that Alabama’s Black population was both sizable and compact enough to warrant a second majority-Black district.
The court ordered the redrawing of the map. However, Alabama’s Republican attorney general, Steve Marshall, turned to the Supreme Court, which placed the litigation on hold and agreed to hear the case.
During the November election, the Supreme Court was split 5-4 in allowing the use of the new map. Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative, dissented and joined the court’s three liberals.
In the election, Republicans secured six out of the seven seats, while Democrats won the majority-Black district.
If a new map had been implemented, Democrats might have gained an additional seat.
The Supreme Court’s decisions in cases like the Alabama one have been seen as potentially contributing to Republicans’ slim majority in the House of Representatives.
Alabama argued that the lower court excessively emphasized race when reaching its conclusions.
Attorney General Steve Marshall asserted in court documents that the challengers’ ability to demonstrate the possibility of drawing a second majority-Black district did not constitute sufficient evidence of discriminatory actions by the state. Marshall cited other “race-neutral” factors in map drawings, such as regional culture, identity, and the requirement for districts to have similar population sizes.
Over the past decade, the Supreme Court has weakened the Voting Rights Act in two separate cases.
In 2013, the court significantly limited a crucial provision of the law that allowed for federal oversight of election law changes in specific states.
In a 2021 ruling related to Arizona, the court made bringing cases under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act more challenging.
This case is one of three that the court is currently hearing where conservative attorneys promote what they view as politically correct, race-neutral arguments to address racial discrimination.
In other cases, the court may end affirmative action in college admissions and strike down parts of a law that provides preferences to Native Americans seeking to adopt Native American children.
The court is also deliberating another significant election-related dispute in the current term.
The ruling, expected before the end of June, will address a Republican initiative to limit state courts’ authority to enforce state constitutional provisions in federal elections.
Should the court uphold the initiative, it could facilitate Republican-led legislatures’ efforts to restrict voting rights.