A Court Gets It Wrong

Alabama’s legislature redrew its Federal House of Representative district lines, leaving the State with one black-majority district. The State’s courts objected and ordered the lines drawn, strongly encouraging a second black-majority district be created, since 27% of the State’s citizens are black. The State’s legislature sort of obliged, creating a second district with 40% of its voters being black.

A three-judge Federal panel (which The Wall Street Journal identified as a special three-judge district court) rejected the new districts. It’s on this point that I think the court got things badly wrong, and if the AP article is accurate, exposed the intrinsic racism in the way district lines are drawn.

The panel said that if Alabama’s legislature didn’t draw lines that suited the judges on the panel, that panel would draw the lines for them. It

ordered a special master and cartographer to draw new maps that comply with the Voting Rights Act in time for the 2024 elections, saying it would be futile to give the state Legislature a third chance to draw districts that didn’t disenfranchise Black voters.
“We do not take lightly federal intrusion into a process ordinarily reserved for the State Legislature. But we have now said twice that this Voting Rights Act case is not close,” the court said.

This is what our Constitution’s Article I, Section 4, says about that sort of thing:

The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof….

What the US Supreme Court ruled when Alabama’s original newly drawn districts got to it was that courts could, indeed, reject a legislature’s districting, but it did not rule that courts could draw the districts themselves—all courts may do is return the matter to the State’s legislature. This three-judge panel has no authority to draw its own districts or to designate party separate from Alabama’s legislature to draw them. All this panel can do is serially reject the legislature’s districts. Our Constitution has a solution for this, as well. The 14th Amendment, Article 2, is quite clear:

[W]hen the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice-President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

If Alabama lacks a court-approved set of districts, then all of its citizens (the 19th Amendment eliminated the restriction to “male inhabitants”) are denied their right to vote, and Alabama would lose all of its representation in Congress.

The intrinsic racism in districting “requirements”—including in the US Voting Rights Act which governs—is this AP summary of the panel’s ruling:

[T]he State should have two districts where Black voters have an opportunity to elect their preferred candidates. Because of racially polarized voting in the state, that map would need to include a second district where Black voters are the majority or “something quite close,” the judges wrote.

The only racial polarization in voting is the creation of the Voting Rights Act and the several courts’ rulings that insist certain races of US citizens should get special treatment in voting. Either all American citizens are equal under our Constitution and our laws, or we are not. To insist that some races must be treated differently in our voting laws can only be racist.

As the Supreme Court has ruled, more than once, Eliminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it.

Full stop.

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