Conservative Justices on the Supreme Court this week questioned the framework used to consider cases alleging gerrymandering and discrimination, which could lead to a limiting of protections provided by the Voting Rights Act.
The court is hearing a case involving newly drawn congressional maps in Alabama, which are accused of discriminating against the state's Black population.
Justice Samuel Alito claimed that Alabama's argument was "far-reaching," but CNN notes that he, Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Clarence Thomas, and Justice Amy Coney Barrett made statements that seemed to express sympathy with the state's secondary arguments saying that race can't be considered early in the mapmaking process.
Liberals on the court were more openly supportive of a lower court opinion that had invalidated the maps and opposed changing precedent.
"It's kind of a slam dunk," Justice Elena Kagan said of the decision.
She added that the Voting Rights Act "is an important statute," saying, "It's one of the great achievements of American democracy to achieve equal political opportunities, regardless of race, to ensure that African Americans could have as much political power as white Americans could. That's a pretty big deal."
Alito asked U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar about the framework established by the court's 1986 decision in the case of Thornburg v. Gingles, saying, "As a practical matter, in every place in the South and maybe in other places, if the first Gingles condition can be satisfied, will not the plaintiffs always run the table? Where can [the defendants] win?"
Prelogar said at one point that "Decades of experience have shown that Section 2, as implemented by the Gingles framework, works as Congress designed by screening out meritless claims and providing relief only for the 'special wrong' that occurs when a districting plan combines with racially polarized bloc voting to deny a cohesive minority group an otherwise available opportunity to elect its candidates of choice."
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