How the Supreme Court likely gave Republicans control of the House

By | November 10, 2022

Mark Joseph Stern writes:

Democrats had a surprisingly good election night on Tuesday. They held on to a number of critical Senate seats, won key gubernatorial races, and, shockingly still, had a slight avenue to hold on to control of the House of Representatives, despite historic headwinds and virtually no margin for error. Still, Republicans are currently forecast to win control of the House by a small margin, carrying the chamber by one to 10 seats. If that projection holds, it will be no overstatement to say that the conservative majority of the U.S. Supreme Court took control of the House of Representatives for Republicans.

The reason is simple: In February, by a 5–4 vote, SCOTUS suspended the Voting Rights Act’s ban on racial gerrymandering. For decades, the VRA prohibited states from drawing congressional maps that dilute the votes of racial minorities by depriving them of a fair opportunity to elect their preferred representatives. Sensing an ally in the judiciary, red states brazenly violated this principle during the latest round of redistricting. In states like Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Texas, Republican lawmakers packed racial minorities into as few districts as possible. These lawmakers then carved up remaining minority communities, distributing them throughout majority-white districts.

This tactic is the exact kind of racial gerrymandering that the VRA was designed to prevent, and the courts have consistently blocked racial gerrymanders from happening every cycle. The only question was whether the Supreme Court, with its newly confirmed far-right Supermajority, would actually enforce the VRA’s previous guarantees.

An early test came when voting rights advocates filed a lawsuit against Alabama’s new congressional map, which packed most Black residents into a single, sprawling district, then sprinkled the rest throughout overwhelmingly white districts. Again: It’s hard to think of a clearer example of illegal racist redistricting. The map was so egregious that a three-judge district court with two Donald Trump appointees struck it down in January, writing a meticulous 225-page opinion rigorously applying the VRA. (The case is called Merrill v. Milligan.) Alabama promptly asked the Supreme Court to halt the decision. [Continue reading…]

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