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Supreme Court Strikes down N. Carolina's Racial Gerrymander

25 May 2017

North Carolina is (unofficially) the GOP's policy lab in that numerous party's more controversial policies are first tested there.

Justice Kagan with opinion in North Carolina redistricting case.

Even as the justices debated the North Carolina and Virginia maps in December, another case from Wisconsin was moving their way that could give them a chance to rule on partisan, rather than racial, gerrymandering.

"The U.S. Supreme Court has made clear over the past quarter century that racial gerrymandering is an unconstitutional no-no, but partisan gerrymandering is still permissible".

Lacking a compelling reason for the two African-American majority districts, the state was found to be in violation of the Voting Rights Act, which regulates certain states' districting specifically concerning racial discrimination.

Hans von Spakovsky of the right-wing Heritage Foundation disagreed with the Supreme Court's ruling, arguing that it exacerbates "the confused state of the law". As of this writing, the most newsworthy of the lot is the case about how congressional district lines are drawn in North Carolina.

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

The court's ruling was unanimous that District 1 was improperly drawn with race as the predominant factor, but the court split 5-3 on whether District 12 was, too. It would not be surprising for the Supreme Court to send that case back for reconsideration and we could see another order for special elections.

US Supreme Court rejects two congressional districts in N Carolina
Similarly, the percentage of black voters in the state's newly reconfigured 12th District rose from 43.7 percent to 50.66 percent. African-American voters traditionally support the Democratic Party, while Republicans have an advantage with whites voters.

"This is a watershed moment in the fight to end racial gerrymandering", said former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr., who is part of a Democratic effort focused on redistricting. Conservative Clarence Thomas, the court's only black justice, joined Kagan's ruling.

Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the dissenting opinion on the 12th District, was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy in arguing the state officials drew up the districts to help Republicans, not to disenfranchise black voters.

Justice Gorsuch was not involved in this case. This is a standard practice of gerrymandering that confines the influence of minorities to designated "minority majority" districts and decreases their impact in whiter, more Republican areas. Ample evidence was offered to support the conclusion that "race, not politics, accounted for the district's reconfiguration", Kagan said. Any redrawing will likely give Democrats and Latino voters more say here, which could make an Austin-area district held by Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D) more blue and a swing district along the border even more hard for Rep.

The Supreme Court sided with a lower court on Monday in finding that North Carolina had illegally drawn two of its voting districts to over-include black citizens, unfairly and illegally reducing their voting power. Indeed, Richard Hasen of the University of California, Irvine, says that yesterday's ruling has transformed the legal topography, reviving racial gerrymandering claims once thought futile. The courts found substantial evidence to undercut that argument. The justices could act on the challenge to the state districts as early as next week.

Georgia may feel the effects of the U.S. Supreme Court decision overruling voting districts in North Carolina. Poor North Carolina won't be able to draw a line around all the brown people and defend it by saying they were just trying to corral all the Democrats in one district. Sad! In 2010, when Republicans took control over many state legislatures, they used the opportunity to redraw districts.

Civil rights groups applauded the ruling.

"The North Carolina Republican legislature tried to rig Congressional elections by drawing unconstitutional districts that discriminated against African Americans and that's wrong", Cooper said.