In a 5-4 ruling issued late last week, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that Alabama illegally packed Black voters into a single congressional district following the 2020 Census and must redraw its maps to create a second minority-majority district. Census Bureau figures show Alabama, which has seven congressional seats and a population of just over five million people, is about 27% Black.
The decision marked a victory for voting rights activists, who feared a ruling in favor of Alabama would have eradicated Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act. This part of the law prohibits voter discrimination based on race and color and allows groups to petition for relief if they feel their rights have been violated.
“The Court’s opinion does not diminish or disregard the concern that may impermissibly elevate race in the allocation of political power within the States,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. “Instead, the Court simply holds that a faithful application of precedent and a fair reading of the record do not bear those concerns out here.”
The conversation regarding race and political representation accelerated during Oklahoma’s last redistricting cycle in late 2021 when the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature opted to split the state’s growing Latino population in southwest Oklahoma City into three congressional districts. Critics of the decision told Oklahoma Watch that the shift would mute the growing political voice of the group, which leans Democratic. Republican leaders defended the move, saying the state’s Latino population is more varied geographically and politically than one might initially assume.
“What language do you think is the predominant language in Guymon Public Schools?” House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, said in response to a reporter’s question about what people in southwest Oklahoma City have in common with panhandle residents. “It’s Spanish, not English.”
Several notable Supreme Court cases remain pending as the body approaches a late June recess, including one that Oklahoma tribal nations fear could erode their sovereignty. My colleague Lionel Ramos has reported extensively on Brackeen v. Haaland, where plaintiffs argue that a federal law prioritizing family or tribal placement for Native children discriminates against non-native families. Click here to read Lionel’s story.
Have story ideas, tips or thoughts on what kind of coverage I should prioritize this summer? You can reach me at kross@Oklahomawatch.org.
What I’m Reading This Week
- Lawmakers Fund Parent Representation Program: The state will spend $4.6 million to create the Family Representation and Advocacy Program, housed under the Administrative Office of the Courts, to pay and train attorneys to work with parents and kids, manage caseloads and provide support during court cases. [The Frontier]
- New Law Lets Oklahoma Property Owners Repudiate Racist Language in Land Records: Although a 1948 U.S. Supreme Court decision declared such language unconstitutional and unenforceable, many land documents created under segregation still state that only Caucasians are allowed to own certain property. Some states have created processes to remove or repudiate those discriminatory covenants, with Oklahoma being the most recent. [NonDoc]
- How the Far Right Tore Apart One of the Best Tools to Fight Voter Fraud: An NPR investigation found a policy blueprint for Republican-led states to pull out of the Electronic Registration Information Center, the only reliable service in the nation that can catch duplicate voting and registration across state lines. [NPR]
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