Photo from Aurora Samperio/NurPhoto via ZUMA Press
In a surprising win for voting rights and racial justice, the Supreme Court voted last week to reaffirm a decades old precedent prohibiting racial gerrymandering. The decision centered around Alabama’s legislative districts, where a Republican led redistricting plan would result in White voters becoming the majority in six out of seven districts, even though one in four voters in the state is Black. Following the Supreme Court’s decision, Alabama must now create a second majority-Black district to ensure more equitable representation. Chief Justice John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh joined the three liberal justices in the decision.
Gerrymandering has unfortunately become common practice in many states to rig elections in favor of one party by diluting the influence and voting power of a specific demographic of voters. “Rather than voters choosing their representatives, gerrymandering empowers politicians to choose their voters,” writes Julia Kirschenbaum from the Brennan Center for Justice. Oftentimes, the groups targeted by gerrymandering efforts are communities of color, due to the correlation between political party and race. State and local governments have the ability to redraw voting district boundaries once every decade following the Census Bureau’s release of population data. Now, we are seeing the impact of this new round of redistricting as a result of the 2020 Census.
The Supreme Court’s latest ruling upheld the 1965 Voting Rights Act which prohibited racial discrimination in voting and declared that Alabama’s legislature has denied Black voters the ability to be represented in the state government and win political power. This is expected to have a significant impact across other states in the South, such as Louisiana, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas, requiring them to redraw congressional lines to avoid violation of the Act. There are currently 31 active federal cases involving similar Voting Rights Act racial redistricting issues.
The right to vote is a fundamental aspect of our democracy and the manipulation of the political process for partisan gains cannot continue. The Feminist Majority calls on Congress to pass federal election reforms, such as the Freedom to Vote Act, to ensure our elections are protected from unconstitutional voter suppression and racial gerrymandering.