Merrill v. Milligan – Redistricting (AL)
U.S. SUPREME COURT
On July 18, 2022, in the U.S. Supreme Court, former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Massachusetts Governor William F. Weld, and former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman filed an amicus brief in the case Merrill v. Milligan and Merrill v. Caster (consolidated) urging the Supreme Court to uphold key portions of the federal Voting Rights Act (VRA) that protect minority voters from having their voting power diluted. The States United Democracy Center, Cooley LLP, and Jonathan L. Williams, P.A. served as pro-bono outside counsel on the brief.
In their brief, Amicus Curiae Governors Schwarzenegger, Weld, and Whitman highlighted the importance of ensuring that minority voters, like all Americans, can elect candidates who will represent their interests and explained why the Court should uphold the precedent set in Thornburg v. Gingles in 1986. In Gingles, the court held that minority vote dilution violates Section 2 of the VRA if plaintiffs can prove that:
- A “minority group” is “sufficiently large and geographically compact to constitute a majority in some reasonably configured legislative district”
- The minority group is “politically cohesive,” in that its members vote similarly;
- The majority group “vote[s] sufficiently as a bloc” to usually “defeat the minority’s preferred candidate”; and
- Based on the totality of the circumstances, the political process is not equally open to minority voters.
In the brief, the governors also noted that the Gingles framework appropriately maintains state and local autonomy over districting and requires the drawing of majority-minority districts only in limited circumstances.
On January 24, in Merrill v. Milligan, a unanimous three-judge district court determined that Alabama’s newly enacted Congressional map does violate Section 2 of the VRA—“packing” Black voters into one of seven Congressional districts, diluting their voting power—and ordered the state to redraw the maps to include two majority-Black districts. Alabama officials appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, urging the Court to narrow the VRA’s protections for minority voters against vote dilution. The Supreme Court agreed to the hear the case and consolidated it with Merrill v. Caster. Oral argument before the Court is set for October 4, 2022.
At the time of the filing of the amicus brief, the case was awaiting oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court.