The Supreme Court on Monday reinstated an Alabama congressional map that a lower court had said diluted the power of Black voters, suggesting that the court was poised to become more skeptical of challenges to voting maps based on claims of race discrimination, reports the New York Times.
The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s three liberal members in dissent. The Supreme Court’s brief order, which included no reasoning, was provisional, staying a lower court’s decision while the case moves forward. The justices said they would hear Alabama’s appeal of the lower court’s ruling, but they did not say when.
Both the stay and the decision to hear the case indicated that the court is open to weakening the role race may play in drawing voting districts for federal elections, setting up a major new test of the Voting Rights Act in a court that has gradually limited the reach of the law in other contexts.
The dispute in Alabama is part of a pitched redistricting battle playing out across the country, with Democrats and Republicans alike challenging electoral districts as unlawful gerrymanders. Those challenges have mostly been filed in state courts, meaning the Supreme Court is unlikely to intervene.
Civil rights leaders and some Democrats say the redistricting process often disadvantages growing minority communities. Republican state officials say the Constitution allows only a limited role for the consideration of race in drawing voting districts.
If the court follows its usual practices, it will schedule arguments in the Alabama case for the fall and issue a decision months later, meaning that the 2022 election would be conducted using the challenged map.