Some GOP officials are questioning who counts as Black, with the question finding its way back before the Supreme Court again.
The question is “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,” NPR wrote.
The legal issue is playing out over new maps of congressional voting districts brought on by Republican-led legislatures in Alabama and Louisiana following the 2020 census, with the fate of the maps resting on how the Supreme Court rules first in the case out of Alabama — Merrill v. Milligan, which was heard in the high court this month. The case may set a precedent for lawsuits involving Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
In both cases, lower courts have determined that the maps were drawn in a way that likely weakens Black voters’ strength at the polls, which as a result, would violate the Voting Rights Act by giving a minority group, as written out in Section 2, “less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice.”
GOP state officials have argued against the analyses used, partly by questioning a definition of Blackness that has been the standard in cases focused on the voting power of Black people.
A 2003 Supreme Court ruling defined “Black” by including every person who identifies as Black on census forms — including those 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, seek to narrow definitions of Blackness that do not include people who also identify with another minority group.
GOP officials in Alabama argued in lower court filings that limiting the definition to people who mark just the “Black” box and do not identify as Latino for the census would be “most defensible.” however, they did not submit support for their stance.
Officials in the Louisiana case — Ardoin v. Robinson —argue that the definition is only to include people who check off either just the “Black” box or both “Black” and “White” and do not identify as Latino.
Alabama officials have since dropped their efforts to redefine Blackness.
But Louisiana and its Republican secretary of state, Kyle Ardoin, have asked the highest court to rule with a final word on which definition should be used in Section 2 cases.