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Court leans to narrow Voting Rights Act, moves away from major overhaul

Police officers stand in the rain outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday. The court heard arguments on the Voting Rights Act on Wednesday. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/d581f09846df96673a8f5d553c9ac73b/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Police officers stand in the rain outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday. The court heard arguments on the Voting Rights Act on Wednesday. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 5 (UPI) -- Conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court appeared cool to Alabama's attempt to severely limit the historic Voting Rights Act but looked for a narrower way to support the state's current legislative map.

Liberal voting rights advocates have argued that Alabama's current legislative map, which has one minority-majority district, dilutes Black voting power to elect a second representative.

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Alabama's Solicitor General Edmund LaCour, Jr., told the court that the act is race-neutral and meant to dissuade intentional racism.

"The purpose of the Voting Rights Act is to prevent discrimination and to foster our transformation to a society that is no longer fixated on race," LaCour told the court, according to the New York Times.

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"But plaintiffs would transform that statute into one that requires racial discrimination in districting and carries us further from the goal of a political system in which race no longer matters."

Justice Samuel Alito, one of the most conservative justices on the bench, told LaCour that some of his arguments were "quite far-reaching." Two other conservatives, Chief Justice John Roberts and Amy Coney Barrett, appeared to push back on LaCour's assertion that the law only should be used when racial bias was shown to be intentional.

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"My understanding of our cases is that you don't have to show intent," Roberts said.

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Barrett added: "Our precedent and the statute itself says that you don't have to show discriminatory intent, so put that aside."

The three liberal justices, led by the newest justice Ketanji Brown Jackson argued that the law had to be viewed in its historical context.

Jackson argued that the law, which was built on the 14th Amendment, sought to make sure Black people were treated equally after being denied access to voting in the past.

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"[The law was] trying to ensure that people who had been discriminated against ... were actually brought equal to everyone else in society," Jackson said, according to SCOTUS Blog. "That's not a race-neutral or race-blind idea."

Alito and Barrett, though, said the challengers to Alabama's map could achieve its goal of more minority-majority districts without taking race as a factor if the mapmakers use other criteria. Justice Brett Kavanaugh argued that the second minority district favored by challengers was "too sprawling to be reasonably compact or reasonably configured."

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