Members of the Republican-dominated legislatures in Alabama and Louisiana are caught up in a legal battle over the definition of race and how it relates to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The law limits how state legislatures can draw congressional maps based on race.
Faithfully Magazine writes that opponents of the GOP maps say that the Republican party is trying to dilute Black voters with the 2020 congressional maps. Members of the legislature have denied the accusation, questioning how the term “Black” is legally defined. Southern Republicans argue for a narrower definition of the term.
Who counts as Black?
The thorny question has quietly found its way before the U.S. Supreme Court again, ensnared in a major legal battle over the Voting Rights Act that could further gut the landmark law and make it harder to protect the political power of voters of color.
The battle is playing out over new maps of congressional voting districts created by Republican-led legislatures in Alabama and Louisiana after the 2020 census. The fate of the maps rests on how the Supreme Court rules first in the case out of Alabama — Merrill v. Milligan — which the high court heard this month and may set a precedent for lawsuits about Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
Since a 2003 ruling by the Supreme Court, that definition of “Black” has included every person who identifies as Black on census forms — including people who check off the boxes for Black and any other racial or ethnic category such as white, Asian and Hispanic or Latino, which the federal government considers to be an ethnicity that can be of any race.
Republican state officials, however, have called for narrower definitions of Blackness that do not include people who also identify with another minority group.
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