United States: an electoral division deemed unfavorable to African-Americans divides the Supreme Court

ÉUnited States: an electoral division deemed unfavorable to African Americans Divide Supreme Court


WASHINGTON | U.S. Supreme Court justices laid out their race differences on Tuesday when considering a map of precincts in the state of Alabama accused of diminishing the influence of black voters, who lean to the Democrats. 

The case is getting a lot of attention, as the conservative-majority high court could take the opportunity to whittle away at the sweeping Civil Rights Act of 1965, which stymied efforts by former segregationist states to disenfranchise African Americans. of the right to vote.

“The Voting Rights Act is one of the great advances in our democracy (…) and aims to ensure that African Americans have the same political power as white Americans recalled the progressive judge Elena Kagan, regretting that he had already been weakened twice by the high court. 

“What will be left of it?” after this new file, she wondered.

Concretely, this relates to a map redrawn in 2021 by the elected Republicans of Alabama to allocate seats in the House of Representatives. According to the chosen division, black voters – who represent 27% of the population – are in the majority in only one of the seven constituencies and scattered in the other six.

However, in Alabama as in several southern states, African-Americans vote mainly Democrats and white voters, Republicans. The new card is therefore suspected of favoring the Republican Party.

To have it invalidated, citizens and associations had taken legal action accusing the legislators of having violated the “Voting Rights Act” which prohibits dilute the vote of African-Americans.

For them, the new map passes through the middle of a predominantly black region, the “Black Belt”, and cuts it in two. They believe that Alabama should have created a second precinct with a black majority.

“Not blind”

Earlier this year, a court of first instance ruled in their favor and ordered local elected officials to issue a new copy. The Republican authorities then turned urgently to the Supreme Court.

In February, five of the nine wise men of the prestigious institution authorized them to keep the 2021 division for the time being – and therefore for the mid-term elections in November – while postponing the examination of the file on the merits.

This took place on Tuesday and lasted nearly two hours, in a Supreme Court that had just reopened to the public, and gave rise to lively discussions.

Beyond the debate on his card, the 'Alabama pleaded through his lawyer that the United States Constitution prohibited taking into account ethnic criteria during electoral redistricting. Conservative Justice Samuel Alito appeared to support the idea, repeatedly stressing the importance of having “racially neutral maps”.

African-American Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, who has only been sitting on the Supreme Court since Monday, strongly contested this reading. For her, the principle of equality among all Americans “is not a concept to which the racial question is foreign” and was adopted after the emancipation of former slaves “to ensure that people who had suffered from discrimination in the past ( …) be treated as equals.”

Alabama Attorney General Edmund LaCour countered that this principle “prohibits discriminatory actions by states, but is not not an obligation to carry out positive discrimination actions”.

This exchange foreshadows other debates to come: the Supreme Court must examine at the end of October the programs set up in universities to promote ethnic mixing, deemed discriminatory against white students by Republicans.

She must make all these decisions before June 30.