MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — Alabama is on the national stage as the Supreme Court considers in Merrill v. Milligan whether the state’s new congressional map is constitutional.
The Selma to Montgomery March laid the groundwork for the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Now, the Supreme Court considers whether Alabama’s new congressional map violates that law by diluting the voting power of Black Alabamians.
Black voters make up about 27% of the state’s electorate. But the new map has just one majority Black district: Congresswoman Terri Sewell’s.
“Representation matters. And this is a case about fair representation,” Sewell said outside the Court after sitting in on the arguments.
Those supporting Milligan say a second majority-Black district would give Black voters a better chance at representation in Congress.
“If Milligan case is not favorable, it is going to set us back for several decades,” Alabama State Conference of the NAACP Vice President Kenneth Dukes said at a “Democracy Day” rally in Montgomery.
During oral arguments, Attorney General Steve Marshall says the legislature used a race-neutral approach in drawing the lines. He says to do otherwise would violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and split up communities of interest in the Gulf.
“Requiring states to scrap neutral plans in favor of plans drawn on account of race sets Section 2 at war with itself and with the constitution,” Marshall said.
Marshall says he’s confident in the state’s argument.
“The presentation today was compelling for the arguments that were made about the ability of the State of Alabama to effectively draw a plan as well as the race neutral reasons in which that plan was adopted,” Marshall said.
The ACLU and NAACP Legal Defense Fund argued for the plaintiffs. Executive Director of ACLU Alabama JaTaune Bosby-Gilchrist says she’s hopeful the court rules in favor of Milligan.
“Our goal again is to ensure that with the history of voting rights in Alabama, the Supreme Court understands it, and gets it right to ensure that individuals are represented,” Bosby-Gilchrist said.
This case made it to the high court after federal judges in January ruled that Alabama had to draw new maps, and the state appealed.
It’s the first week of the Supreme Court’s term, and a decision on this case likely won’t be out until spring or summer next year.