Demonstrators gather in front of the US Supreme Court.
OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Thursday that Alabama violated a ban on racial gerrymandering.
The decision comes as a surprise to court watchers who expected the court to gut the Voting Rights Act.
Chief Justice John Roberts, who often rules against voting rights, wrote the majority opinion.
The Supreme Court held the line against racial gerrymandering on Thursday in a surprise 5-4 decision holding that Alabama violated the Voting Rights Act by creating congressional districts that discriminate against Black voters.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined the court’s three liberal-leaning justices in the decision, which held that the voting map used in the 2022 congressional elections in Alabama was illegal.
The ruling agreed with the findings of a lower federal court that “Alabama’s extensive history of repugnant racial and voting-related discrimination is undeniable and well documented” and “Black Alabamians enjoy virtually zero success in statewide elections,” noting that the state of Alabama hasn’t challenged that conclusion in its arguments before the Supreme Court.
“The Court sees no reason to disturb the District Court’s careful factual findings, which are subject to clear error review and have gone unchallenged by Alabama in any event,” Roberts wrote in the majority opinion.
The decision comes as a surprise to many court watchers, who expected the Supreme Court to gut the Voting Rights Act entirely. Right-wing justices currently have a firm 6-3 grip on the court. Roberts, who is often viewed as the most moderate justice appointed by a Republican president, has historically chipped away at voting protections previously enshrined by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
In this case, he and Kavanaugh — an appointee of former President Donald Trump — joined Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Ketanji Brown Jackson in upholding the part of the law that forbids racial gerrymandering.
This story will be updated.