The Supreme Court made a surprising ruling that stunned political observers on Thursday in the closely watched Allen v. Milligan case. They ruled that Alabama likely violated the Voting Rights Act’s prohibition on racial gerrymandering when it drew a map that pigeonholes the majority of Alabama’s Black voters into a single congressional district. That decision could make it more difficult for the GOP to hold the House of Representatives in 2024 election.

Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kavanaugh joined the court’s three more liberal members of the high court to give the side challenging the law the win in a 5-4 decision.

What made the ruling even more surprising is that Roberts was previously involved in several decisions weakening voting rights and representation, including striking down the requirement for preclearance of election law changes for Southern states in 2013, and prohibiting federal courts from policing partisan gerrymandering in 2019.

The decision will mean that Alabama will most likely have to redraw their congressional district map for the 2024 election and it will include two Black majority districts.

There is some pending legislation in lower courts that could delay that from happening, but it is now expected to ultimately happen before the 2024 election.

Notably, the majority rejected an argument from the state of Alabama that it should only be required to draw an additional majority-Black district if the plaintiffs could prove the high hurdle that it was required without considering race. That theory would have made it extremely difficult for plaintiffs to show discrimination had occurred in redistricting against minority voters.

“This court has long recognized – and as all members of this court today agree – the text of §2 establishes an effects test, not an intent test,” Kavanaugh wrote in a concurring opinion. “The effects test, as applied by Gingles to redistricting, requires in certain circumstances that courts account for the race of voters so as to prevent the cracking or packing – whether intentional or not – of large and geographically compact minority populations.”

Taking a break from avoiding personal scandals, Clarence Thomas resumed his “uncle Tom” role in the court, siding with three other conservative judges in the minority. Thomas criticized the ruling as over-reaching repeating some of the same failed arguments that Alabama used to avoid not getting to keep black voters from just having one district out of 8 where they are the majority, despite having 25 percent of the state’s population. Thomas claimed that the court has long “misinterpreted” section 2.

Attorney General Merrick Garland praised the decision in a statement:

“Today’s decision rejects efforts to further erode fundamental voting rights protections, and preserves the principle that in the United States, all eligible voters must be able to exercise their constitutional right to vote free from discrimination based on their race,” he said. “The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, the right from which all other rights ultimately flow.”