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Supreme Court Enables Racial Gerrymandering

Last week, the Supreme Court approved congressional maps that diminish the electoral power of black voters in Louisiana and Alabama. 


 


This fall, Louisiana will use a Republican-drawn map that includes only one majority-Black district. The remaining five districts will be majority-White, even though one-third of Louisiana’s voters are African American. 


 


Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick ruled that the map violated the Voting Rights Act and ordered the state to create another majority-Black district. Louisiana's secretary of state put a hold on order, and the Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday. 


 


The three Democrat judges voted against the state’s request, and the majority did not provide a reason for granting it.


 


The day before the Louisiana map was approved, the court cleared a map in Alabama that inhibits African Americans' voting power. The Supreme Court restored the old map with only one majority-Black district and halted a lower court’s decision to draft a new one. 


 


The lower court ruled that a new map with an additional majority-Black district was necessary to comply with the Voting Rights Act. Still, the Supreme Court’s Republican majority overruled redistricting once again. 


 


Now, Alabama’s congressional elections will take place under a map drawn by Republicans, which is a blow to the state’s Democrat leaders.


 


Amendments to the Voting Rights Act in 1982 required states to prioritize the electoral power of minorities when creating districts. The Supreme Court then ruled that states must enhance minority representation where necessary. 


 


In 1986, the Supreme Court furthered the criteria for redistricting by creating the Gringles test, which determined when new districts favoring minorities were necessary. In addition, the minority group had to be large enough to comprise a district, show political cohesion, and display evidence of racially polarized voting.


 


Last week’s approval of the Alabama map failed the Gringles test. The court’s decision overruled precedents set by long-established amendments to the Voting Rights Act that helped minority voting power.


 


Cases in Alabama and Louisiana pose concerns for Democrats and voting rights activists concerned with racial gerrymandering. Proponents of enhancing minority votes point to the demands of the Voting Rights Act. In opposition, Republicans cite the Equal Protection Clause’s guarantee that race does not play too large a role in government decisions.


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