Voters should be the ones to decide elections, not politicians who manipulate voting maps to maximize their party’s chance of success and minimize the voting power of Black voters and other voters of color. However, control of the U.S. House of Representatives this Congress likely came down to court decisions in a few key redistricting cases involving unfair voting maps.
In Alabama and Louisiana, federal courts blocked discriminatory voting maps from going into effect and required those states to draw new maps with another majority-Black district, so Black voters could elect the candidate of their choice.
Then, the Supreme Court issued a stay in Merrill v. Milligan, which froze the lower court’s decision and ensured Alabama’s discriminatory map would stand for the 2022 election cycle. Similarly, the Supreme Court reinstated Louisiana’s discriminatory map after a lower court invalidated it pending its decision in Milligan.
In Georgia, a federal court found that their congressional map likely violated the Voting Rights Act but was constrained by Supreme Court precedent and allowed the voting map to remain in place given the proximity to the election.
State courts in Florida likewise declined to act in time for the election to determine whether their map violated the state’s gerrymandering ban. The map that was ultimately used for the 2022 election halved the number of districts where Black voters could elect their candidate of choice and flouted the “Fair Districts” amendment voters passed in 2010 to prevent gerrymandering.
All these cases involved maps that were textbook examples of racial vote dilution, the practice of creating district maps that cancel out or minimize the voting power of communities of color, which prevents them from electing their preferred candidate.
When voting maps are drawn in a way that minimizes the voting strength of communities of color, voters are deprived of an equal opportunity to participate in the political process. The newly elected Congress will make decisions that are important to the lives of every voter, yet voters of color in many states with discriminatory maps did not get an equal say in who will represent them.
In other states, like New York and Michigan, state courts respected the will of voters and helped make sure voters cast their ballot under fair maps so every vote would count equally.
New York’s state supreme court invalidated a map drawn by politicians for violating an anti-gerrymandering measure voters passed in 2014 and ordered new maps be drawn for the 2022 primary election. In Michigan, voters cast their ballots under fair maps drawn by a citizen-led independent redistricting commission that Campaign Legal Center helped defend in court.
Our democracy works best when every voter can participate in it. When lawmakers have free rein to draw their own district lines, they can manipulate congressional maps to silence voters of color and benefit themselves. Solutions like independent redistricting commissions are voter-centric reforms that help ensure voters, not politicians, decide how electoral districts are drawn.