On Tuesday, the Supreme Court rejected Alabama Republicans' latest bid to deploy a congressional map that includes only one majority-Black district, dealing them their second loss in three months.
Two emergency applications filed by Republican state authorities to have the court stop lower court orders that rejected the new map were denied. The process to have a fresh map approved by a lower court is still ongoing, as NBC News reported.
The Supreme Court's June finding against the state upheld a major section of the landmark Voting Rights Act in rejecting the state's initial attempt to design congressional district borders.
There were no dissenting opinions or explanations from the court. Abha Khanna, a lawyer who assisted in challenging the maps, said, "Alabama's open defiance of the Voting Rights Act stops today."
"It is now clear that none of the maps proposed by Republican supermajorities had any chance of success. Treating voters as individuals would not do. Instead, our elected representatives and our voters must apparently be reduced to skin color alone," he said.
A previous judgment by the Supreme Court sent the state back to the drawing board. However, just like the old plan, the new one only has a single district where Black voters have a good chance of electing a candidate of their choosing. The percentage of Black residents in Alabama's seven congressional districts is about 27 percent.
Two separate lower court judgments invalidated the new design on the grounds that the Supreme Court's June ruling mandating an additional minority-Black district was not met.
“We are not aware of any other case in which a state legislature — faced with a federal court order declaring that its electoral plan unlawfully dilutes minority votes and requiring a plan that provides an additional opportunity district — responded with a plan that the state concedes does not provide that district," one of the court rulings said.
Black people in the state are more likely to vote Democratic, so a new plan with a second majority-Black district could aid Democrats in their effort to win control of the House of Representatives in next year's election. The state's congressional delegation is made up of six Republicans and one Democrat.
Both issues were combined because they involved disputes over the congressional district plan drawn by the Republican-controlled legislature following the 2020 census. Individuals and the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP challenged the map, claiming it discriminated against Black voters in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
Several lower courts have decided that the plaintiffs have established, under the statute as it currently stands, that the Black population in Alabama is both substantial enough and compact enough to warrant the creation of a second majority-Black district.
The majority of the Supreme Court in the June ruling consisted of three liberal justices and two conservatives, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Kavanaugh wrote in a separate opinion that his vote did not preclude future challenges to Section 2 of the 1965 legislation on the basis of whether there is a period when considering race in redistricting is no longer justifiable, showing that the court left the door open for future challenges to the law.
Marshall relied on Kavanaugh's statements to ask that the lower court decisions be stayed.
A remedy for past racial discrimination that may have been constitutional and reasonable is no longer appropriate, he argued, citing the court's June decision to eliminate the use of race as a factor in college admissions.
A second majority-Black district is the only remedy under current law, but the challengers' attorneys contended in court papers that the state has made no effort to do so.
The state "is not entitled ... to implement a congressional map that openly defies the clear rulings of the district court and this court," they wrote.