The Supreme Court blocked a lower court’s ruling 5-4 that would have forced Alabama to draw a new congressional map to create two districts likely to elect black House members.

The federal court said that the map violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. They agreed that one black-majority district did not allow minority citizens the same opportunity to vote, even though the Alabama population is more than one-fourth black. 

Justice Brett Kavanaugh referenced previous instances where the court declined to change rules close to an election. Primary elections begin on May 24, but absentee balloting for the races will open on March 30.

“When an election is close at hand, the rules of the road must be clear and settled. Late judicial tinkering with election laws can lead to disruption and to unanticipated and unfair consequences for candidates, political parties, and voters, among others. It is one thing for a State on its own to toy with its election laws close to a State’s elections. But it is quite another thing for a federal court to swoop in and re-do a State’s election laws in the period close to an election,” he wrote in an opinion Justice Samuel Alito joined.

“In my view, the District Court properly applied existing law in an extensive opinion with no apparent errors for our correction,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in a solo dissent. While Roberts normally votes against consideration of race, he joined the liberals and said that he thought the lines should be redrawn and the outcome should be evaluated after the election.

Just one of Alabama’s seven districts is held by a Democrat. Rep. Terri Sewell has served in a 63 percent black district since 2011. Although black people make up 27 percent of Alabama’s population, they only have control of 14 percent of Alabama’s congressional districts.

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