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Southern Republicans Want to Control Who Counts as Black in Voting Maps

Who counts as Black?

The thorny question has quietly found its way before the U.S. Supreme Court again, 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.

The battle is playing out over new maps of congressional voting districts created by Republican-led legislatures in Alabama and Louisiana after the 2020 census. The fate of the maps rests on how the Supreme Court rules first in the case out of Alabama — Merrill v. Milligan — which the high court heard this month and may set a precedent for lawsuits about Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

In both cases out of the Deep South states, lower courts have separately found that the maps were drawn in a way that likely dilutes Black voters’ strength at the polls. That would violate the Voting Rights Act by giving a minority group, as spelled 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 pushed back against the analyses that led to those findings, partly by questioning a definition of Blackness that, for close to two decades, has been the standard in cases focused on the voting power of Black people and no other racial or ethnic group whom the federal government classifies as a protected minority population.

Voting rights cases focused on Black voters have used a broad definition of “Black”

Since a 2003 ruling by the Supreme Court, that definition of “Black” has included every person who identifies as Black on census forms — including people 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, have called for narrower definitions of Blackness that do not include people who also identify with another minority group.

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Faithfully Magazine is a fresh, bold and exciting news and culture publication that covers issues, conversations and events impacting Christian communities of color.


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