MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — A major decision was received from the United States Supreme Court Thursday morning, upholding Section Two of the Voting Rights Act and requiring Alabama to redraw its Congressional districts.
Congresswoman Terri Sewell called the Supreme Court’s decision a win for democracy.
Sewell represents Alabama’s District 7, the state’s only majority-Black congressional district out of seven, while the Black voting age population in the state is more than 25%.
“The amazing foot soldiers, many unknown, but we know of John Lewis, really gave sacrifice for the right of every American to have an equal voice in our democracy, and I feel as if their struggle, their sacrifice was rewarded today,” Sewell said.
This decision affirms a lower court ruling that states Alabama’s map dilutes Black voting power, calling for another majority-Black district.
“It’s a seismic decision. It’s going to reverberate throughout Alabama, throughout the South,” says Doug Jones, former Democratic U.S. senator.
American Civil Liberties Union Alabama Executive Director JaTaune Bosby Gilchrist said the ruling is historic and will have national impacts.
“We know there are other states such as Louisiana that will be impacted by the Milligan decision, and we knew that as we were heading to the Supreme Court,” Gilchrist said. “So with that in mind, I think it speaks to the long history of Alabama being very central to voting rights and voter access in this nation.”
Jones agrees with this sentiment.
“When you open the door to more members having a voice in their congress, it opens the door to a lot of other changes,” Jones said. “We have a case pending right here in Jefferson County and I think it’s going to affect that case because this county has been voting solidly Democratic over the last few years but yet three out of the five commissioners are Republican.”
Political analyst Steve Flowers said, however, a new majority-minority district could invite the possibility of a Republican winning that seat.
He said though Democrats celebrate the decision, a second majority-Black district could lower the Democratic voting populations in each, ultimately making these potential seats more competitive.
“The reapportionment committee told Democrats when they were asking this ‘Be careful what you ask for’ because all they can do is give you a 50% district,” Flowers said. “That does not guarantee you election.”
Republican lawmakers drew the map after the 2020 census, previously calling it “race-neutral.”
“There’s no question, this was a surprising disappointment for the state of Alabama,” says Paul DeMarco, former Republican state legislator.
Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a statement the court’s decision is disappointing, but the case isn’t over.
“The State is still entitled to put on our full case at trial,” Marshall said. “And we are confident that the evidence will make clear that voters in Alabama, regardless of their race, have the same opportunity as any other members of the electorate to participate in the State’s political processes and elect representatives of their choice.”
His office did not elaborate on what further legal action he could take.
“When the legislature redrew the maps, they drew the maps based on precedent of other rulings so that’s why Steve Marshall, the Alabama Attorney General, said these maps are drawn within the constitutional requirements set out by prior court rulings,” DeMarco said.
CBS 42 reached out to Gov. Kay Ivey’s communications director on whether the governor may call a special session to address this. She said they are reviewing the outcome.
The Alabama Republican Party released a statement saying:
“The Alabama Republican Party is disappointed in the ruling by the United States Supreme Court. The U.S. Constitution is clear that drawing district lines – as well as redistricting – are the responsibility of state legislatures. Regardless of our disagreement with the Court’s decision, we are confident the Alabama Legislature will redraw district lines that ensure the people of Alabama are represented by members who share their beliefs, while following the requirements of applicable law. The Alabama Republican Party remains committed to competing in every district, and will work hard to win all seven Congressional seats with candidates that reflect their communities and the values of the State of Alabama.”
Secretary of State Wes Allen also released a statement.
“I am disappointed in today’s Supreme Court opinion,” Allen said. “But it remains the commitment of the Secretary of State’s Office to comply with all applicable election laws.”