Est. 1995

Tag: Allen v. Milligan

Dark money: The backstory of Alabama’s redistricting defiance

The Alabama Legislature’s open defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Allen v. Milligan ordering the creation of a second majority-Black district baffled and infuriated the federal three-judge panel that initially ordered the state to redraw its 2021 congressional map.

These previously unreported connections between Alabama officials who led the state’s 2023 redistricting process and various players seeking to reshape America may be the reason Alabama’s Republican-controlled legislature gambled on a rehearing before the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes their inside intelligence was right in believing Kavanaugh would change his previous vote in Allen v. Milligan.

APR has now identified connections between Alabama officials who led the 2023 redistricting process — which disregarded the U.S. Supreme Court’s order — with far-right power broker Leonard Leo’s dark money network, described this past week by Politico as “a billion-dollar force that has helped remake the judiciary and overturn longstanding legal precedents on abortion, affirmative action, and many other issues.”

There now appears to be a significant connection between Alabama's post-Milligan map redrawing process, Leo's powerful national dark money network, and KavanaughAPR’s reporting shows the extent to which Alabama’s calculation to defy the Supreme Court was made not simply by state legislators in Alabama but has been driven by nationally connected political operatives at the center of the well-documented right-wing effort to reshape the composition and jurisprudence of the Supreme Court and to overturn the remaining key protections established by the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Despite the organization’s claims that it does not take positions on policies or nominations, former President Donald Trump famously stated that Leo’s Federalist Society had “picked” his judges, and all six Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices “were seated with major help from Leonard Leo,” who has come to be known as the “hidden architect of the Supreme Court.” With few exceptions, the justices Leo has ushered to the bench have reliably voted to permit the partisan gerrymanders and strict restrictions on voting access that have proliferated in recent years from red-state legislatures, which themselves work in tandem with — and sometimes under the direction of — Leo’s dark money groups.

Source:

Dark money: The backstory of Alabama’s redistricting defiance

Will Roberts strike a mortal blow to the Voting Rights Act?

Michael Waldman

 

 

 

June is the cruelest month. Tomorrow begins the weeks of decisions to be announced by the Supreme Court as its term draws to a close. Once again we will wait to find out how far the six conservative justices will push — and what kind of country we will live in. I discuss the perils of this moment in my new book, The Supermajority, out next Tuesday.

One of the most important rulings will come in a major case on the Voting Rights Act, Allen v. Milligan. It could also be one of the most damaging. That statute was by some measures the most effective civil rights law on the books. And over the past decade, the Court led by Chief Justice John Roberts has demolished it, bit by bit.

The background of the Voting Rights Act will be familiar to readers of this newsletter. Although the 15th Amendment, ratified in 1870, guaranteed Black Americans the right to vote, states found countless ways to deter, dilute, and deny those votes for nearly a century.

Then came Bloody Sunday. Violent attacks on civil rights protesters horrified the nation, awoke a collective sense of justice, and galvanized our political leaders to act. On August 6, 1965, less than five months after the march, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law. It created our modern, multiracial democracy — an American success story.

But in the early 1980s, a young lawyer in the Reagan administration named John Roberts furiously opposed a bill renewing and clarifying the act. He lost that battle, but his war on the law was just beginning. He would in many ways make his crusade against the Voting Rights Act the signature issue of his career.

First came Shelby County v. Holder in 2013. The law’s Section 5 required states with a history of racial discrimination to get permission from the Justice Department or a federal court before changing voting practices. At the argument, Antonin Scalia called this a “racial entitlement.” The audience gasped. Scalia did not write the opinion, though; Roberts did, and he was more decorous. The South had changed, he explained. That was then, this is now. The Court effectively ended Section 5.

Within hours, states began to implement discriminatory voting laws. Texas, for example, implemented a voter identification law that instantly disenfranchised 608,000 registered voters, according to a federal judge.

Weak and wobbly, there was something left of the Voting Rights Act: Section 2. That lets you sue after the fact to prove discriminatory voting practices. Voting rights groups including the Brennan Center began to use it to challenge the new wave of voter suppression laws — with heartening success. We won our case against the Texas law, for example. Then in 2021, in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, the Court made it much, much harder to use Section 2 against discriminatory voting laws.

All of which brings us to the upcoming case. For decades, Section 2 has been a potent protection against racial gerrymandering, the drawing of legislative lines to dilute the power of the vote for communities of color. In fact, challenging gerrymandering is the main way Section 2 has been used before. That law’s strength may soon be a memory.

In this case, Alabama’s mapmakers packed as many Black voters as possible into an already existing majority-black district, then surgically distributed the remainder among other districts to ensure that they could not assert political power. Black voters could elect a candid­ate of choice in only one of seven districts despite making up over a quarter of the state’s voting-age popu­la­tion. The Court may bless that. (Talk about “racial entitlements”!)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a memorable dissent in Shelby County. She warned, “Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.” In the decade since the white-Black voter turnout gap grew between 9 and 21 percentage points across five of the six states originally covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Maybe other factors caused this gap to grow. But an eviscerated rights law surely won’t help.

On many things, John Roberts has been prudent, canny, and an institutionalist. When it comes to the law of democracy, he has been the activist leader of a disciplined conservative cadre. The supermajority, I fear, is just getting warmed up.

Inside John Roberts’ Decades-Long Crusade Against the Voting Rights Act

© 2024 CounterPoint