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July 31, 2023

Alabama’s Defiance of the Supreme Court on Voting Rights Is a Threat to the Rule of Law

On June 8, 2023, in Allen v. Milligan, the U.S. Supreme Court unambiguously held that the State of Alabama was required, by section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, to use a congressional district map containing two of seven districts in which African-American voters had the ability to elect candidates of their choice.  Given the high level of racial polarization in voting in Alabama, this meant that these two districts had to contain a majority of voters who are African-Americans or, at a minimum, a very high percentage of African-Americans, approaching 50%, so that the African-American candidate of choice for Congress predictably would prevail with the help of a small number of white voters.

Faced with this unambiguous mandate, however, the Alabama legislature proceeded to pass a new district map that contained only one district effectively controlled by African-Americans.  This was a deliberate act of defiance of the decision issued by the Supreme Court.  The second district in the new map supposedly providing voting opportunities to African-Americans is only about 40% African-American and, in the 2020 election, it favored Donald Trump (who was decidedly not the candidate of choice of African-American Alabamians) by a substantial margin.  The Legislature simply refused to allow the State’s African-Americans to control more than one congressional district. As Governor Ivey put it in signing the new bill into law, “The Legislature knows our state, our people and our districts better than the federal courts or activist groups, and I am pleased that they answered the call . . . .”

This kind of open refusal to follow the law by Alabama’s elected representatives echoes the days of massive resistance to desegregation mandates.  It also shows a lack of respect for the rule of law, which is an essential element in our democracy.  We call on Alabama to come into compliance with the Supreme Court’s mandate and on the federal courts to ensure that it does so.

The views expressed herein are from the individual leaders of CRSJ, and have not been approved by the House of Delegates or the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association and, accordingly, should not be construed as representing the policy of the American Bar Association. They are the views of the individuals themselves in their personal capacities.