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A Strike Against Racial Gerrymandering is a Victory for Our Democracy

June 8, 2023

Photo credit: Evan Milligan, center, speaks with members of the press following oral arguments outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022. Standing behind Milligan are Milligan’s counsel Deuel Ross, from left, Letetia Jackson, Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., and Janai Nelson, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

This week, the Supreme Court issued a decision affirming a key pillar of the Voting Rights Act by striking down racially gerrymandered voting maps in Alabama.  

The case, Allen v. Milligan, featured State Voices’ table Alabama Forward and its Executive Director, Evan Milligan, as the named plaintiff. At issue was whether the voting maps approved by the Alabama legislature in 2021 violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race in voting procedures. Under the racially gerrymandered maps, Black voters in Alabama had the oppor­tun­ity to elect a candid­ate of their choice in just one of the state’s seven districts despite making up more than a quarter of the state’s voting age population. The court’s ruling means the maps will need to be amended to end the discriminatory dilution of Black voters’ political power.

The ruling marks a major victory not only for Black voters who have been disenfranchised and pushed to the sidelines, but for everyone who believes in a fair and representative democracy. The decision reaffirms the power of voters and organizers to hold politicians accountable and protect our voting rights in Alabama and across the country. Racially gerrymandered maps marginalize BIPOC communities while contradicting our nation’s democratic ideals.  

“Today, we celebrate this victory for BIPOC communities and pro-democracy advocates across the country,” said Evan Milligan, a leading plaintiff in the case and Executive Director of Alabama Forward. “We are grateful that the Supreme Court upheld what we knew to be true: that everyone deserves to have their vote matter and their voice heard. Today is a win for democracy and freedom not just in Alabama but across the United States.”

“This ruling proves that politicians cannot weaken our community representation by distorting congressional lines, particularly in Alabama and Louisiana,” Milligan said. “The voters will be heard, and this ruling will help secure our futures.”

Alabama Forward’s community partners Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice (ACIJ), Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity (URGE), and Alabama-Korea Education & Economic Partnership (AKEEP) tabling at the Democracy: Now or Never Festival on Saturday, June 3, 2023, in Montgomery, Alabama.

A similar battle over racially gerrymandered electoral maps has also been taking place in Louisiana, where State Voices’ table, Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, and its partners are working tirelessly to register and engage BIPOC communities and voters. Multiple courts found Louisiana’s recent maps to be in violation of the VRA based on racial gerrymandering that packed Black voters into the same district to dilute their political power, and the Supreme Court ruling likely means Louisiana’s gerrymandered maps will be amended.

“For years, redistricting and voting rights organizers have advocated for fair and equitable legislative maps,” said Ashley K. Shelton, president and CEO of the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice. “Today, the Supreme Court affirmed the importance of fair maps and ordered officials in Alabama to redraw legislative lines which undermine the power of Black voters.”

“Although today’s decision was in our favor, we have a long way to go to ensure that all people can vote, have their vote counted and elect candidates of choice,” Shelton said. “We must continue organizing, educating our communities, and preparing to vote en masse each time we have the opportunity to do so.”

The Supreme Court’s decision is heartening, but it represents only a step in our long journey to a more just democracy.  In addition to holding state legislatures accountable for fair maps that do not discriminate based on race, we will continue to knock on doors to register voters. We will fight for progress in statehouses and through ballot measures; and we will continue using every tool available to increase civic engagement and participation through technology, training, and lasting relationships. 

In the months ahead, State Voices looks forward to working with our nationwide network of more than 1,200 partner organizations across every state to build a democracy that counts every vote, hears every voice, and meets every need.