Irreparable Injury: Voters in Six States Cast Ballots Under Illegal Maps in 2022

In 2022, voters in six states cast ballots in congressional districts that have been ruled in violation of either the 14th Amendment, Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) or state constitutions.

A legal theory, known as the Purcell principle, came into play multiple times in 2022 redistricting litigation as a way for courts to justify keeping bad maps in place ahead of Election Day. First in Alabama’s Allen v. Milligan, the U.S. Supreme Court paused a lower court’s order to redraw the map, citing the upcoming election, which allowed the state to use a congressional map that was found to violate Section 2 of the VRA. In a ricochet effect, courts allowed congressional maps in Louisiana and Georgia to remain in place despite the fact that they were found to dilute the votes of Black citizens. 

Experts like Gilda Daniels, a former deputy chief at the U.S. Department of Justice’s Voting Section, rightly argue that delaying the redrawing of maps that are likely to be found discriminatory takes away the right to vote from those affected. 

As Daniels puts it, “a vote delayed is a vote denied.” The results of elections cannot be undone, fair representation cannot be retroactively granted and policy is enacted without meaningful input of voters. 


The fight for fair maps in Allen v. Milligan continues, despite the June ruling from the nation’s highest court that required lawmakers to redraw its congressional map to include a second majority-Black district. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a lower court decision holding that the map likely diluted the voting strength of Black Alabamians in violation of Section 2 of the VRA. 

In July, Republican legislators ignored the Court’s ruling and enacted a new map in direct violation of the decision, prompting a federal three-judge panel to order a special master to step in and draw the map. Not happy with this decision, Alabama Republicans appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, yet again.  As expected, Republicans also asked the three-judge panel along with a federal appeals court and the U.S. Supreme Court to pause the ruling — which would delay the special master’s redraw — while litigation is ongoing. 

This week, the federal three-judge panel declined Republicans’ request, asserting that voters “will suffer irreparable harm if they must vote in the 2024 election based on a likely unlawful redistricting plan.” 


In March 2022, the Republican-led Legislature dismantled the 5th Congressional District, a heavily Black district, and split the city of Jacksonville into two districts. A Florida judge blocked the map, finding that it likely violates the Fair Districts Amendment “because it diminishes African Americans’ ability to elect candidates of their choice” in North Florida. The secretary of state appealed the decision and ultimately, the map was in effect for the 2022 midterm elections. 

At the beginning of this month, a judge struck down the map, holding that it violates the state constitution by denying Black Floridians the opportunity to elect their candidate of choice in North Florida. Two days after this ruling, the defendants appealed this voting rights victory, resulting in an automatic pause of the trial court’s order. If accepted, the appeal will be decided by the state Supreme Court by Dec. 31.


In February 2022, a federal judge declined to block the state’s congressional map, though the court found that “there is a substantial likelihood the Enacted Plans violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.” Nevertheless, the court invoked Purcell and kept the map in place, ruling that it was too late in the election cycle to change the map despite the fact that the May 2022 primary election was 84 days away. 

Specifically, the court held “that it is possible to create an additional majority-minority congressional district in the western ​​Atlanta metropolitan area.” One of the three lawsuits challenging the 2020 congressional map, Pendergrass v. Raffensperger, finally headed to trial this month. 


In June of last year, a federal judge blocked the state’s congressional map, agreeing with the plaintiffs that the map likely violates the VRA by diluting the voting strength of Black voters, who make up 33% of Louisiana’s voting-age population. The state then filed an emergency appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which reinstated the previously blocked map for the 2022 cycle. Next month, a district court will decide how the likely violation will be remedied ahead of 2024. 


In March 2022, two lawsuits were filed on behalf of voters challenging the state’s revised congressional map that was passed after the first map drawn with 2020 census data was struck down by the Ohio Supreme Court for being a partisan gerrymander. The plaintiffs argued that the revised map “bears a striking resemblance” to the first map that was blocked, but the Ohio Supreme Court didn’t weigh in until after the May 2022 primaries. 

Even after the state Supreme Court struck down the map in July 2022, Ohio Republicans didn’t draw a legal map for the November general election, forcing voters to vote under a court-deemed illegal map for the 2022 cycle.

Last week, after a lot of back and forth, the Ohio Supreme Court dismissed a challenge to the state’s revised congressional map at the request of the pro-voting plaintiffs as the court’s new far-right majority could approve an even more egregious gerrymandered map for 2024. New maps are required for 2026 because the original map was passed by a simple majority of the Legislature. Unfortunately, Ohioans will once again vote under this gerrymandered map in 2024. 

South Carolina 

In October 2021, after lawmakers kept delaying the 2020 redistricting process and had not yet enacted a new reapportioned map, plaintiffs challenged the state’s 2010 congressional map as being malapportioned. After the Legislature enacted a new map with 2020 census data, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint challenging the map for being a racial gerrymander in violation of the 14th and 15th Amendments. 

On Jan. 6, 2023, a federal three-judge panel held that South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District was a racial gerrymander and struck down the map, pointing out that the creation of this district would have been “effectively impossible without the gerrymandering of the African American population of Charleston County.” 

Republicans, however, appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which took the case in full and will hear oral argument on Oct. 11. 

“‘And once the election occurs, there can be no do-over and no redress’ for voters whose rights were violated.”

As argued in League of Women Voters of N.C. vs. North Carolina (2014) and referenced this week by the federal three-judge panel in Alabama, there is no simple remedy for voters who have cast ballots under illegal maps. 

And though the electoral damage is done, it does not mean that the damage needs to continue in these states or elsewhere. The fight for fair maps is a fight for voters and their communities. It is a fundamentally democratic effort to pursue competitive districts and accountable representation.

Beyond these six states, there is ongoing redistricting litigation over congressional maps in Arkansas, Kentucky, New Mexico, New York, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.