Late Monday afternoon, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed a lower federal court ruling that would have required the Alabama Legislature draw a second Democrat-leaning congressional district.
The 5-4 ruling allows maps drawn in a special session of the Alabama Legislature last year to stand, which likely keeps Alabama’s congressional mix at six Republicans and one Democrat.
The conservative majority said a three-judge panel lower court decision that would have required the Yellowhammer State to create a second majority-minority district came too close to the 2022 election cycle. Chief Justice John Roberts joined the three liberal justices in dissent.
The lower court ruling made by U.S. Circuit Judge Stanley Marcus and U.S. District Judges Anna Manasco and Terry Moorer last month came as Alabama was approaching its May 24 primary date and came within days of the political parties’ qualifying deadline.
“When an election is close at hand, the rules of the road must be clear and settled,” Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in the concurring opinion. “Late judicial tinkering with election laws can lead to disruption and to unanticipated and unfair consequences for candidates, political parties and voters, among others. Late judicial tinkering with election laws can lead to disruption and to unanticipated and unfair consequences for candidates, political parties, and voters, among others.”
“It is one thing for a State on its own to toy with its election laws close to a State’s elections,” he added. “But it is quite another thing for a federal court to swoop in and re-do a State’s election laws in the period close to an election.”
The initial court decision could have had broad implications for the balance of power in Congress. It could have forced a head-to-head match-up between two of the state’s congressional delegation incumbents, with some speculating a primary contest between freshman Reps. Jerry Carl (R-AL) and Barry Moore (R-AL).
The case is Merrill v. Milligan, No. 21A375 in the Supreme Court of the United States.
Follow Jeff Poor on Twitter @jeff_poor