Redistricting congressional districts in the states become a significant legal issue after every census and the resulting reapportionment in states due to population changes or intrastate shifts among existing districts. The Supreme Court issued a ruling in a significant redistricting challenge arising out of Alabama on Monday upholding the map against an argument by Democrats that it violates the federal Voting Rights Act.
Republicans have been forced to get used to a system that allowed Democrat states to draw their districts in any way they choose. New York state, which Biden won in 2020 with 60 percent of the vote, drew its congressional map this time to ensure 85 percent Democratic representation in Congress. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) in particular saw his 10th district drawn in extreme gerrymandered fashion to protect his (extra large) seat in the House.
When the Alabama legislature, controlled by Republicans, slightly modified its districting map last modified in 2011, the existing balance of six Republican seats and one Democrat seat was preserved. None of the seats are highly contested. Democrats decided the status quo was not good enough and filed a federal suit under the Voting Rights Act. The US District Court for the Northern District of Alabama went along and decided that Alabama should have one more Democrat, or black, seat.
The Supreme Court accepted the appeal in the case, and the ruling issued Monday was 5-4 in favor of allowing Alabama’s proposed changes to stand. Chief Justice John Roberts joined the three liberal justices in dissent. The temporary ruling means the Alabama map will stand until the Supreme Court has received all of the parties’ briefs, heard arguments, and voted on a final ruling in the case.
Roberts wrote in his dissent that he would let the order disallow the new map stands for this year’s primary and general midterm elections and allow a map resulting from a later final decision by the Supreme Court to control other elections in the future.
If the 5-4 majority in the case signals where the court is likely to go in the final order in the matter, Democrats may live to regret their decision not to let well enough be in Alabama. A new Supreme Court decision could become a significant shield for Republicans against blatant Democratic gerrymandering in future years.