Supreme Court liberals mount defense of suffrage law

Supreme Court liberals, including new Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, strongly defended the Voting Rights Act on Tuesday, arguing that Alabama should be required to draw electoral maps that give black voters a chance to vote. be represented equally.

The court faces a showdown this term over whether race can be considered in the draw for electoral districts or for college admissions to improve equality and diversity, or whether taking considering race for any reason is illegal.

Conservatives on the court, in a 5-4 vote, stepped in for Alabama in February and blocked justices demanding the state draw a second congressional district with a near majority for African Americans. About 27% of the state’s population is black, but only one of its seven districts has elected a black candidate.

Upping the ante, Alabama state prosecutors on Tuesday urged judges to rule broadly that the Constitution and Voting Rights Act prohibit the state from taking steps to give black residents representation. more equal.

Elections in Alabama are “equally open to all voters,” said state attorney Edmund LaCour. It would be wrong to “discriminate in favor of one group” by intentionally drawing an electoral district where black residents constituted the majority.

He had barely begun his argument when Justices Elena Kagan and Jackson interrupted him to say that the Voting Rights Act understood that racial equity sometimes required considering race.

Kagan said the Voting Rights Act was “one of the great achievements of American democracy” and its goal was to end the era of racial exclusion with an equal opportunity rule.

“You are asking us to reduce 40 years of precedent,” she said, and make it extremely difficult for black candidates to win elections in places like Alabama, where the vote is “incredibly polarized” according to of the breed.

Jackson echoed the conservatives’ claim that the Constitution itself is “race-blind,” noting that the post-Civil War amendments at issue in the case were passed in response to slavery.

“The drafters passed the 14th and 15th Amendments in a race-conscious manner,” because people had been discriminated against because of their race. “It wasn’t a race-neutral or race-blind idea,” she said.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor sounded the same theme, and the liberals were joined for much of the argument by conservative Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh. He said the evidence showed Alabama could create a majority-black second district that wouldn’t be oddly shaped or “weird.”

But it was unclear from the argument how the court is likely to rule. Most conservative judges said little.

Only Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. appeared to side with Alabama. He said mapmakers should focus on race to draw a majority-black second district, which was questionable under the law.

Civil rights advocates fear the court’s conservative majority is poised to make it much harder for black and Latino voters to gain representation in Congress, state legislatures and city councils.

Congress strengthened the Voting Rights Act in 1982 to ban voter maps that denied racial minorities an equal opportunity “to elect representatives of their choosing.” This in turn had forced states to draw electoral districts, where possible, that would have a majority or near majority of black or Latino voters.

But Alabama lawyers argue that using race as a factor in selecting electoral districts is illegal “racial gerrymander.”

The case is Merrill v Milligan.

If the High Court rules in favor of Alabama, it could benefit Southern Republicans by making it harder for black Democrats to win seats in Congress and the Statehouse.

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