On Thursday, June 8, the Supreme Court issued a resounding victory for voting rights in Allen v. Milligan (formerly Merrill v. Milligan), a case in which Relman Colfax participated as counsel for amici for three Alabama fair housing centers. The Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s determination that the Plaintiffs had shown a substantial likelihood that Alabama’s Congressional map violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by diluting Black Alabamians’ voting power.
The decision unequivocally upholds the test the Supreme Court adopted for Section 2 claims more than 35 years ago. Observing that “[i]t is hard to imagine many more fundamental ‘prerequisites’ to voting than determining where to cast your ballot or who you are eligible to vote for,” the 5-4 majority opinion makes clear that Section 2’s admonition that “no voting qualification or prerequisite to voting” should be imposed in a discriminatory way means that states cannot draw voting districts to “crack and pack” Black communities, as Alabama had done.
In holding that Alabama’s map likely violates Section 2, the Court agreed that Alabama’s Black Belt is a community of interest that should be taken into account in districting. In its amicus brief on behalf of the Fair Housing Center of Northern Alabama, the Central Alabama Fair Housing Center, and the Mobile-based Center for Fair Housing, Relman Colfax articulated the ways in which racial segregation in Alabama came about through governmental and private efforts to segregate Black communities over their objection and at enormous cost to them. This segregation continues as a result of similar forces today, giving rise to communities of interest such as the Black Belt.
The Relman Colfax team includes Rebecca Livengood, Jennifer Klar, and Gabriel Diaz, with paralegal assistance from Mariana Boully Perez and Max Niles.
Evan Milligan, a Montgomery native and executive director of the group Alabama Forward, led a group of local organizations as plaintiffs, and they were represented by a team including the Legal Defense Fund and Hogan Lovells.