Relman Colfax filed a brief on behalf of Alabama’s fair housing centers, appearing as amici curiae, in this Voting Rights Act (VRA) challenge to Alabama’s congressional district map.
Alabama’s congressional map includes seven districts. While the state is nearly 30% Black, only one district is majority Black. Plaintiffs filed suit under the VRA contending that this scheme improperly dilutes the votes of Black Alabamians, such that they have less opportunity to elect representatives of their choosing than do white Alabamians. The District Court agreed. A three-judge panel, including two Trump appointees, found after an extensive evidentiary hearing that Plaintiffs had shown a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of their VRA claim. This required a showing under the Court’s seminal vote dilution case, Thornburg v. Gingles, that (1) the voting age population of Black voters in Alabama was sufficiently numerous and geographically compact to constitute a majority in a second reasonably sized voting district; (2) Black Alabamians vote in a politically cohesive way; (3) white voters vote sufficiently as a bloc to defeat Black voters’ preferred candidates; and (4) the totality of the circumstances demonstrate a VRA violation. The District Court panel ordered the State to draw a new congressional district map in which Black voters have an opportunity to elect representatives of their choice.
The defendants sought a stay at the United States Supreme Court, which the Court granted. Justice Kagan issued a dissent, joined by Justices Sotomayor and Breyer, and Justice Roberts also dissented. All dissenters agreed that the District Court had properly applied Gingles in reaching its “factbound” conclusion, and Justice Kagan rejected the majority’s assessment that there was insufficient time for Alabama to redraw its map, as the plaintiffs had initiated the lawsuit “within hours or days” of the challenged plan’s enactment; the legislature had passed the existing plan in less than a week and had access to all the tools necessary to redraw the plan, including at least eleven illustrative remedial plans introduced in front of the District Court; and no election as imminent—the primary election was still four months away, the general election nine months away. As a result of the stay, the 2022 elections are proceeding under the plan that the District Court found violated the VRA. The case is now before the Supreme Court for a hearing on the merits.
Relman Colfax represented the three Alabama fair housing centers, the Central Alabama Fair Housing Center in Montgomery, the Fair Housing Center of Northern Alabama in Birmingham, and the Center for Fair Housing in Mobile, who participated as amici in support of Plaintiffs-Respondents to provide context for the Supreme Court’s consideration of the first Gingles factor, the compactness of the Black voting age population in Alabama. As amici explain in their brief, the Black voting age population in Alabama is compact because Alabama is incredibly racially segregated. This segregation is the consequence of decades of government and government-backed conduct designed to separate people by race. This segregation has been imposed against the wills of Black Alabamians, who have opposed it at every turn.
The Court will hear argument on the merits of the case on October 4, 2022.