Ballotpedia identifies 17 noteworthy Supreme Court cases regarding redistricting from 1946 to 2023

Ballotpedia has identified 17 noteworthy redistricting cases that the Supreme Court has heard since 1946, and the court issued two such rulings this month.

In a 5-4 decision in Allen v. Milligan on June 8, SCOTUS affirmed the judgment of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama that the state’s congressional redistricting plan adopted in November 2021 violated the Voting Rights Act. The Court referred the case back to the trial court for further proceedings and Alabama will redraw its congressional map to include a second majority-minority district.

In a 6-3 decision in Moore v. Harper on June 27, SCOTUS affirmed the North Carolina Supreme Court’s authority to decide whether the state’s congressional district boundaries complied with state law. Although the state supreme court later reversed its decision, SCOTUS’ ruling said, “The Elections Clause does not vest exclusive and independent authority in state legislatures to set the rules regarding federal elections…When state legislatures prescribe the rules concerning federal elections, they remain subject to the ordinary exercise of state judicial review.”

Some other noteworthy redistricting cases include:

  • Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (2015), where the Supreme Court by a 5-4 vote affirmed the constitutionality of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, which was established by state constitutional amendment in 2000. The court ruled that “redistricting is a legislative function, to be performed in accordance with the state’s prescriptions for lawmaking, which may include the referendum and the governor’s veto.”
  • Shelby County v. Holder (2013), where the Supreme Court by a 5-4 vote declared Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 unconstitutional, removing preclearance requirements for all jurisdictions unless the preclearance formula of Section 4(b) is updated by Congress.
  • Wesberry v. Sanders (1964), where the court ruled 6-3 that congressional districts must have nearly equal populations in order to ensure that “as nearly as is practicable, one man’s vote in a congressional election is to be worth as much as another’s.”

As the nation’s court of last resort, the U.S. Supreme Court has heard various cases throughout its history regarding the drawing of congressional and legislative district lines. When the court issues rulings in these cases, the precedents established affect redistricting practices throughout the country.

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