Opinion: Supreme Court sends surprise message to the South

This week brought another chapter in maybe the most unexpected political storyline of 2023, as the U.S. Supreme Court again shut down attempts by the state of Alabama to use a Congressional district map that diluted the power of Black voters.

The latest ruling also sent a signal to Georgia and other southern states — that similar legal challenges by Democrats over Congressional redistricting lines may have a chance at success.

It was the second time in three months that the Supreme Court had rebuked Alabama Republicans, who have openly defied multiple court orders — doing all they can to avoid drawing a second Black-majority Congressional district.

“Once again we have seen activist judges overstep their roles,” fumed U.S. Rep. Jerry Carl, R-Alabama, who conveniently omitted the fact that all three federal judges on the special panel dealing with this Alabama redistricting case were nominated by Republicans — two of them by Donald Trump.

Among elected officials in the Yellowhammer State, there was even more defiance.

“America’s congressional elections as we know them will never be the same,” thundered Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, who has watched as his state has lost this legal fight at every step in the federal court system.

The history of how the South has dealt with Black people and voting is checkered, to say the least. After the Civil War, Reconstruction brought the first Black lawmakers to Congress, like Georgia’s Jefferson Long, who served in 1871.

But southern states did all they could to undermine Black voters and Black politicians — and it took more than a century before Georgia elected another Black person to Congress, when Andrew Young won a seat in 1972.

Change took even longer in Alabama, which went from 1877 to 1993 without a Black member of Congress.

In his scorching reply to the Supreme Court, Alabama’s Attorney General argued voters in his state are being punished for old sins.

“There should be nothing more offensive to the people of our great state than to be sidelined in 2023 by a view of Alabama that is stuck in 1963,” Marshall added.

1963 is a notable date for Marshall to mention. That’s when Gov. George Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door, doing all he could to stop Black students from enrolling at the University of Alabama.

60 years after Wallace, the state of Alabama is again defying the U.S. Supreme Court on matters of race – basically asking the Justices to nullify the Voting Rights Act.

Alabama lost in 1963, and for now, is on the wrong side of the Supreme Court again today.

Jamie Dupree has covered national politics and Congress from Washington, D.C. since the Reagan administration. His column appears weekly in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For more, check out his Capitol Hill newsletter at http://jamiedupree.substack.com