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US Supreme Court rejects two congressional districts in N Carolina

23 May 2017

"The reason that even the dissenting justices concurred in this part of the decision is that state legislative leaders made the mistake of openly saying they were deliberately creating this district as a 51 percent black-majority district in order to get preclearance from the Obama administration's Justice Department".

North Carolina prevailed in state court, where a trial judge rejected a claim from several civil rights groups that the districts were unlawfully gerrymandered. Much of Adams's district, which used to snake north from Charlotte into Winston-Salem, is now divided between Reps.

In a 5-3 ruling, the top United States court agreed with plaintiffs who said that the redrawn electoral boundaries deliberately targeted minority voters to diminish their political power.

But for North Carolina Republicans, that map wasn't almost gerrymandered enough. "Today's ruling sends a stark message to legislatures and governors around the country".

Additionally, civil rights groups in the United States applauded the court ruling noting that North Carolina officials had violated the proportional rule of voting-age populations in the U.S. state. For the second time in recent years, it upheld - without briefs or a hearing either time - a federal ban on so-called "soft money".

African-American voters traditionally support the Democratic Party, while Republicans have an advantage with whites voters.

The justices' decision not to take up a Republican appeal in the important voting rights dispute set no legal precedent and did not rule out the possibility that the court, with a 5-4 conservative majority, would endorse such laws in future. Similarly, the percentage of black voters in the state's newly reconfigured 12th District rose from 43.7 percent to 50.66 percent.

Monday's decision won't settle the broader national debate over gerrymandering.

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In regard to District 12, the state maintained the race played no role in the creation of the district. Instead, the state argued that Republicans who controlled the redistricting process wanted to leave the district in Democratic hands, so that the surrounding districts would be safer for Republicans. Partisan gerrymandering has always been legally acceptable.

Such plaintiffs, under Alito's framework, must "come forward with an alternative redistricting map that served the legislature's political objective as well as the challenged version without producing the same racial effects". To succeed, they would nearly certainly need to win over Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. In his dissent, Justice Samuel Alito argued that the majority ignored a precedent establishing that an alternate map must be proposed.

Unfortunately, Republican legislators swiftly replaced this map with an equally aggressive gerrymander that, they claimed, only took into account partisan considerations. Previously Democrats had won seven of 13 congressional seats.

The lawyer leading the challenge to the state districts, Anita Earls of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, said Monday's ruling has clear implications for that case.

But the justices declared North Carolina had relied too heavily on race in their efforts to "reshuffle", in the words of Justice Elena Kagan, voters from one district to another.

The 2011 maps resulted in ten of thirteen districts being represented by Republicans.

Legendary journalist Lyle Denniston is Constitution Daily's Supreme Court correspondent.

However race can be considered in redrawing boundaries of voting districts in certain instances, such as when states are seeking to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act. Grouping voters based on political affiliation is legal.