Amicus brief in Merrill v. Milligan outlines how Alabama congressional map “cracks” apart Black communities to deny them an equal voice in government in violation of VRA
WASHINGTON D.C. – TODAY The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the League of Women Voters of Alabama (LWVAL), the League of Women Voters of the United States (LWVUS), Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP and Stand-Up Mobile submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in Merrill v. Milligan, outlining how Black Alabamians have been systematically deprived of their right to elect candidates of their choice to represent their interests in Congress. The brief asserts that the Alabama Legislature’s discriminatory plan, which cracks residents of the Black Belt among four different districts, robs the region of effective political power. It urges the Supreme Court to affirm the decision of a three judge panel that the state’s map violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
A copy of the Amicus Brief is available here.
“For generations, Alabama has ‘cracked’ apart or ‘packed’ together Black communities to diminish their voice in government and Alabama’s enacted map, which includes only one majority-Black district out of seven, continues that trend,” said Liza Weisberg, voting rights staff attorney with SPLC. “The district court’s ruling rejecting the map is firmly anchored in evidence and faithful to the VRA’s goal of ensuring equal opportunity in voting. The Supreme Court must affirm it.”
“Illegal vote dilution in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act is a continuation of Alabama’s shameful history of racism against Black voters. The Court must uphold the rights of Black Alabamians to elect the leaders of their choice,” said Kathy Jones, president of the LWVAL. “When Black voters are silenced, our democracy is not whole.”
“Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act has been used for decades to protect Black voters from the actions of state legislatures that have the intent and impact of diluting their political power,” said Celina Stewart, chief counsel and senior director of advocacy and litigation for LWVUS. “Here, a three-judge court found — after voluminous testimony — the Alabama legislature’s congressional map was a violation of Section 2 and ordered a new map to protect Black Alabamians, and we implore the Supreme Court to affirm this decision.”
“Black Alabamians have had their voice diminished in government for too long, and have been deprived of an equal opportunity to advocate for issues like access to healthcare and education because anti-voter politicians have cracked our communities apart through redistricting” Said Beverly Cooper, co-founder of Stand Up Mobile. “We urge the Court to defend the voting rights of Black Alabamians”
“The State claims its plan is color-blind, but as its ‘community of interest’ arguments show, its plan in fact exalts the shared interests of white voters over the shared interests of Black voters,” said Noah N. Gillespie, attorney with Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP., which served as pro-bono counsel on the brief “Alabama's argument turns the Voting Rights Act on its head.”
For decades, Black Alabamians have been systematically deprived of their right to elect candidates of their choice to represent their interests in Congress. Over the past 100 years, the Legislature of Alabama has drawn 10 Congressional district maps, and has never drawn a majority-Black district except when forced to so by a federal court. In a thorough and well-reasoned opinion based on an extensive evidentiary record, the Alabama district court found that Black voters as a group are sufficiently large and compact to constitute a majority in a second congressional district in Alabama.
The brief details that residents of the Black Belt share interests with residents in the City of Mobile and other parts of Mobile County across a wide range of issues, including access to health care, educational opportunity, and anti-hunger and other anti-poverty programs. These communities of interest deserve to be respected. The Alabama Legislature nonetheless prioritized keeping together white residents in Baldwin and Mobile Counties at the expense of Black communities, despite weak evidence that Baldwin County and Mobile County residents share common interests.
The socioeconomic characteristics of Mobile and the Black Belt are remarkably similar to one another, and remarkably different from those of Baldwin County, which was improperly joined with Mobile County in the Legislature’s plan. The brief asserts that the Court should affirm the district court’s decision rejecting Alabama’s congressional map, which denies Black Alabamians effective representation and ignored important communities of interest in Mobile.