Since the 2020 presidential election, Republican-led state legislatures have been reshaping voting maps and passing restrictions that have added barriers to Black and people of color. So what happens if the GOP takes that a step farther and tries to change who counts as a Black person? That is a question the Supreme Court could answer, according to NPR.
The high court is now hearing arguments in the Alabama case of Merrill v. Milligan. Lower courts have upheld Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which threw out Alabama districting maps because they were determined to dilute Black voting power. However, Republican attorneys are now looking to limit the definition of who considers themselves Black.
This standard has existed since the 2003 Georgia v. Ashcroft ruling, where “Black” has included every person who identifies as Black on census forms. But as time has moved on, American citizens have increasingly identified themselves as multiracial. Republicans argue this means the definition of Blackness should be narrowed down—meaning the counts should not include people who also identify with another minority group.
While Alabama has since dropped this idea in its Supreme Court appeal, Louisiana has pulled this notion forward in its Ardoin v. Robinson case. Their main argument says that limiting the definition of Blackness would “prevent state actors from artificially inflating the minority counts of their redistricting plans.”
Lower courts found in other rulings that the limitation of what “Blackness” didn’t change their analyses of the maps in general. However, depending on what the Supreme Court decides, section 2 of the Voting Rights Act could be rendered useless. Any tightening of what constitutes “Blackness” could be used to lessen Black voter power in future elections.