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July 18, 2022

ABA asks U.S. Supreme Court to hold Alabama redistricting plan violates the Voting Rights Act

CHICAGO, July 18, 2022 — The American Bar Association filed an amicus brief Monday with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the court in a closely watched redistricting case to affirm a federal district court’s ruling that Alabama’s 2021 congressional redistricting plan violated Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act.

Alabama argues that its plan, which created one minority-majority district out of seven, is race neutral based on computer modeling. The state further asks the Supreme Court to upend precedent allowing the consideration of race when conducting the analysis of Section 2 claims established in the Supreme Court’s 1986 decision in Thornburg v. Gingles.

Following the 2020 census, Alabama adopted a plan for its seven congressional districts that contained only one majority-Black district despite the Black voting-age population of 25.9%. A federal district court applied Gingles to hold that Alabama violated Section 2 because it would be possible to create a second majority-Black district. In February, the high court by a 5-4 vote stayed the lower court’s decision and ordered full briefing and oral argument for its next term.

In its brief, the ABA said racial discrimination “still exists in the electoral process” and that Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act has served as a “key means of ensuring that all Americans have an equal opportunity to exercise the fundamental right to vote.”  The ABA also asked the Supreme Court to “reaffirm its longstanding interpretation” of Section 2.

“The Gingles interpretation has been settled law for 36 years without congressional revision,” the ABA brief said. “And throughout multiple redistricting cycles, litigants and governments have relied on Gingles as the test to balance governments’ redistricting prerogatives and minorities voting rights.”

The ABA added that Section 2 is consistent with the 14th and 15th Amendments, which are both post-Civil War, equal rights provisions.

The ABA brief in the case Merrill v. Milligan is here. The law firm of O’Melveny & Myers LLP filed the brief pro bono on behalf of the ABA.

The ABA is the largest voluntary association of lawyers in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.