ALABAMA — The U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed the continued importance of the Voting Rights Act today in Allen v. Milligan by upholding a lower court’s unanimous decision that Alabama’s state congressional map discriminated against Black voters.
In 2021, the Alabama state legislature produced new congressional maps which only allowed one Black majority district within the state’s Black Belt, an 18-county region marked by historic discrimination and socioeconomic struggles. Alabama’s legislature refused to consider drawing an additional Black opportunity district, despite an increase in Black voting age population in that area and voluminous documentation of the racial discrimination Black voters continue to face across the state.
Today’s decision sides with the plaintiffs and affirms that Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act requires the Alabama legislature to draw a second district where minority voters can elect a candidate of their choice. The decision will also have an impact across the South, as today’s decision clears the way for additional minority districts to be drawn in other states with challenged maps, like Georgia and Louisiana.
“It is hard to imagine many more fundamental ‘prerequisites’ to voting than determining where to cast your ballot or who you are eligible to vote for,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote.
The 34-page decision in Milligan penned by Roberts recommits to the Voting Rights Act’s promise as the foundation for justice for all, not just some. Roberts was joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Kentaji Brown Jackson, and Brett Kavanaugh.
“This is a great day for democracy and for the voting rights of Black and Brown communities throughout the South who continue to be the targets of discriminatory laws that seek to silence their voices and stifle their growing political power,” said Jeff Loperfido, Interim Chief Counsel for Voting Rights at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “The Court’s forceful repudiation of Alabama’s extreme and disingenuous ‘race-blind’ mapping theory is a testament to the important role the Voting Rights Act plays in rooting out discriminatory electoral practices.”
Legal Defense Fund (LDF), American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Alabama, Hogan Lovells LLP, and Wiggins, Childs, Pantazis, Fisher & Goldfarb brought the case in November 2021 on behalf of Evan Milligan, Khadidah Stone, Letetia Jackson, Shalela Dowdy, Greater Birmingham Ministries, and the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP. It was argued before the court on Oct. 4, 2022.
Because activists and advocacy groups stood together, the side of freedom and democracy has won in Black and Brown communities in Alabama. This decision reflects the value of the hard work and tireless effort of voting rights organizers and advocates across the country to ensure communities of color have an opportunity for fair maps and equitable representation.
This fight is far from over. We must continue to organize and advocate for laws to fully protect our democratic systems, and to ensure voters can easily make their voices heard at the voting booth regardless of race, color, or creed.
The Southern Coalition for Social Justice, founded in 2007, partners with communities of color
and economically disadvantaged communities in the South to defend and advance their political, social, and economic rights through the combination of legal advocacy, research, organizing, and communications. Learn more at southerncoalition.org and follow our work on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.