Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern, who writes about law and the courts, exclaimed, “WHOA!” as he explained: “The Supreme Court’s final decision of the day is a 5–4 ruling that AFFIRMS the Voting Rights Act’s protection against racial vote dilution! Roberts and Kavanaugh join the liberals. This is a HUGE surprise and a major voting rights victory.”
Democracy Docket, the website founded by Marc Elias, the voting rights attorney who won 63 of the 64 court cases Donald Trump and his allies filed to contest the 2020 presidential election, also served up a similar response on social media, calling it “a massive victory for voting rights.”
On its website, Democracy Docket calls it “an overwhelming win for Alabamians, specifically Black voters, whose voting power was found to be diluted under the current congressional map. Importantly, the conservative Supreme Court did not make the drastic decision to strike down Section 2 of the VRA, leaving an important tool in voting rights litigation in place.”
It adds the Supreme Court’s decision in Allen v. Milligan “leaves Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) intact and, in a landmark win for voters, struck down the state’s congressional map. The majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, is joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson and joined in part by Justice Brett Kavanaugh.”
Democracy Docket also notes the decision “will have major positive implications for outstanding redistricting lawsuits.”
Stern agrees, writing: “It’s a boon to Democrats’ chances of retaking the House in 2024. The Supreme Court had blocked multiple lower court rulings striking down congressional maps that diluted Black voting power. At least some of those rulings should now be implemented.”
Democracy Docket adds: “The Court’s decision in Allen likely means that litigation challenging Louisiana’s congressional map can move forward and paves the way for a favorable outcome for Louisiana voters. Louisiana’s situation directly mirrors Alabama’s. In both states, voting rights advocates argued that a second majority-Black congressional district is needed to ensure compliance with the VRA. The Supreme Court paused Louisiana’s litigation pending a decision in Allen.”
Dave Wasserman, U.S. House editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report calls the decision “a major surprise,” and says: “This could reverberate to LA, SC and/or GA, forcing creation of 2-4 new Black majority districts and netting Dems 2-4 seats” in the House.
Wasserman, known for his keen knowledge of congressional districts and iconic “I’ve seen enough” early and accurate predictions of House election races, offered this view of how the Court’s decision could impact current districts:
“The Alabama Republicans in most jeopardy owing to the SCOTUS ruling: Reps. Jerry Carl (R) #AL01, Barry Moore (R) #AL02 and Mike Rogers (R) #AL03. Moore could be squeezed the most in any map reconfigured to feature a second Black majority seat.”
University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck, author of a book on the Supreme Court, “The Shadow Docket,” offers up a stinging reminder of how the Court has damaged voting rights and helped Republicans in the process:
“If you assume that additional majority-minority districts in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, & 1–2 other states would’ve been safe Democratic seats, then today’s #SCOTUS ruling strongly suggests that the Court’s 2022 shadow docket stays [decisions/rulings] wrongly gave Republicans control of the House.”
Professor of law Anthony Michael Kreis, pointing to Vladeck’s remarks, adds: “there’s a House majority built on discriminatory lawlessness.”
Also taking note of Thursday’s SCOTUS ruling: House Democrats. Axios’ Andrew Solender reports House Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries’ office is “inviting Dem[ocratic] congressional staff to a Friday briefing on recent Supreme Court cases, including the Alabama congressional map case.”
Meanwhile, the well-known NYU professor of law, Melissa Murray, is stepping in to properly frame reactions to what she sees as the Court’s “weak sauce” decision on the Voting Rights Act.
“Some initial thoughts on Allen v. Milligan,” she writes on Twitter. “Media is trumpeting this as a ‘victory’ for the Voting Rights Act. And it is. And I don’t want to be a turd in the punchbowl… but this is pretty weak sauce from this Court.”
Professor Murray says, “this doesn’t ‘strengthen’ the VRA. It preserves the status quo. And the status quo is that this Court has done an A+ job of hobbling the VRA over the last 10 years.”
Murray offers up some quick historical background.
“In 2013’s Shelby County v. Holder, it eviscerated the preclearance formula. The preclearance regime required states with a history of voting discrimination to first ‘preclear’ any changes to their voting rules and regs with the DOJ or a three-judge federal court panel.”
“The Court invalidated the preclearance formula on the ground that progress had been made and minorities were voting and blah blah blah,” she notes. “This progress narrative prompted RBG [the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg] to note in dissent that throwing out the preclearance formula was like throwing out your umbrella in a rainstorm because you weren’t getting wet. She was right.”
Murray also refers to a number of other cases along the way that weakened voting rights.
“So, yes,” she concludes, “today’s decision is a victory that maintains the status quo for Section 2 of the VRA. But it is cold comfort when one considers the way this Court through its decisions has actively distorted the electoral landscape and made true representative government more elusive.”
The Economist’s Supreme Court reporter Steven Mazie, calls Prof. Murray’s remarks, “Crucial zoomed-out context for today’s Voting Rights Act ruling. The 5-4 is a surprise, and it’s a victory—but after a long string of losses, today’s win amounts to…not losing YET MORE voting protections for people of color.”
The Nation’s justice correspondent, Elie Mystal, offers a bit of a more compact and down-to-earth response: “A way to understand what just happened with Roberts and Kav[anaugh] in the Voting Rights Case is that it’s not going to change much in terms of Alabama’s racist maps. This cost them little,” he says. “The *victory* is that these fools could have straight killed Section 2 of the VRA, but didn’t.”