The first decision, Shelby County v. Holder, effectively struck down Section 5 of the law, which required prior federal approval of changes to voting procedures in parts of the country with a history of racial and other discrimination. But that ruling, Justice Kagan said, assured the public that Section 2 of the law would remain in place to protect voting rights by allowing litigation after the fact.
The second decision, Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, she said, then limited the ability of minority groups to challenge voting restrictions but said vote dilution cases, like the one argued Tuesday, were “really what Section 2 is about.”
“And you’re asking us essentially to cut back substantially on our 40 years of precedent and to make this, too, extremely difficult to prevail on,” she told Mr. LaCour.
Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson said the law had to be understood in the context of the history of the 14th Amendment, adopted after the Civil War, which was meant to protect formerly enslaved Black people. “That’s not a race-neutral or race-blind idea,” she said.
The case, Merrill v. Milligan, No. 21-1086, came from Alabama, which has seven congressional districts. The voting-age population in the state is about 27 percent Black.
In November 2021, Alabama’s Legislature, which is controlled by Republicans, redrew the congressional map to take account of the 2020 census. It maintained a single district in which Black voters make up a majority.
That district has long elected a Democrat, while the state’s other six districts are represented by Republicans.