You just can’t make this stuff up. Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction, especially when the federal government decides to get involved at the local level where it does not belong. A case in point is racial gerrymandering in Alabama. In an attempt to comply with the Voting Rights Act, the Alabama Legislature created several majority-minority districts—districts in which the population of blacks is so high that black candidates are guaranteed to win state and local elections. Sounds good if you are black and a Democrat, right? Apparently not.
The Alabama Democratic Conference and the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus have filed suit against the state of Alabama because some of the racially gerrymandered districts drawn to protect blacks apparently contain too many blacks. Both cases have been heard recently by the Supreme Court. According to Edward Blum (THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, November 12, 2014), “The facts in the Alabama cases are straightforward: A handful of House and Senate districts that had high percentages of African-American residents before redistricting—for example, a percentage in the mid 60s—were redrawn, which in some districts resulted in 76% minority populations.”
In their lawsuits filed with the Supreme Court the Democratic Conference and the Legislative Black Caucus contend that the majority-minority districts in question are actually too safe for black voters. What is this? Are Alabama’s Democrats and members of its Black Caucus feeling guilty? Have they finally accepted that federal laws are passed to guarantee opportunity not results? Are they trying to give candidates of other races a fair chance to win their elections? Are they finally rejecting the heavy hand of the federal government? Unfortunately, the answer to all of these questions is “no.” These two groups have not suddenly come to their senses and rejected what Chief Justice John Roberts calls the “sordid business of divvying us up by race.” Rather, it seems that by packing so many black voters into these oddly-shaped, artificially drawn majority-minority districts, the Alabama Legislature—while complying with the Voting Rights Act and implementing precisely the plan approved by the Obama administration’s Justice Department—has diluted the influence of black voters in other districts.
As is always the case when the federal government attempts to right a perceived wrong through overreaching social engineering, the concept of creating coerced majority-minority voting districts has led to unintended consequences. Putting aside for the moment the larger issue of using the Voting Rights Act to prescribe election outcomes rather than to ensure that minorities have the opportunity to vote, what are the unintended consequences of Alabama’s majority-minority districts? Apparently it is difficult if not impossible to create these artificially drawn voting districts without diluting the voting power of blacks in other districts.
Here is how Edward Blum summarized the situation: “…too many black voters have been packed into a handful of districts, ensuring landslide victories for black Democratic candidates but diluting the influence of black voters elsewhere. Bleached of their reliable Democratic voters, the surrounding districts have become safe for Republicans.” Someone should have told the Alabama Democratic Conference and the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus they cannot have their cake and eat it too. Democratic leaders were only too happy to have majority-minority districts where Democratic candidates are guaranteed success, but now that they realize the unintended consequences of maintaining these politically reliable districts they are singing another tune.
I don’t know how the Supreme Court will rule in these cases, but I do know that Democratic leaders in Alabama will not be satisfied until they can have both: reliable majority-minority districts as well as surrounding districts that are not racially diluted as a result. I don’t know if this is even possible, but I do know that it is inappropriate. Chief Justice Roberts is right. Dividing people on the basis of race is an abomination and an insult to everything Dr. King and the pioneers of the Civil Rights Movement fought for. The Voting Rights Act was passed to ensure that all citizens, regardless of race, have opportunities to vote not to guarantee election results on the basis of race.