The Supreme Court on Wednesday sided with black and Democratic lawmakers in Alabama who said the State Legislature had relied too heavily on race in its 2012 state redistricting by maintaining high concentrations of black voters in some districts. The vote was 5 to 4, with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy joining the court’s four more liberal members to form a majority. Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing for the majority, said a lower court had erred in considering the case on a statewide basis rather than district by district. He added that the lower court had placed too much emphasis on making sure that districts had equal populations and had been “too mechanical” in maintaining existing percentages of black voters.
The Supreme Court vacated the lower court’s ruling and sent the two consolidated cases — Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama, No. 13-895, and Alabama Democratic Conference v. Alabama, No. 13-1138 — back to it for reconsideration.
Richard L. Hasen, an expert on election law at the University of California, Irvine, said Wednesday’s decision might represent only a short-term victory for the plaintiffs.
“It seems likely on remand that at least some of Alabama’s districts will be found to be racial gerrymanders,” he wrote in a blog post. “This means that some of these districts will have to be redrawn to ‘unpack’ some minority voters from these districts.”