Justices Strike Down Two North Carolina Congressional Districts

by Noah Mcgee May 24, 2017, 5:23
Justices Strike Down Two North Carolina Congressional Districts

Written by Justice Elena Kagan, the ruling is the latest in a series of rejections from the Supreme Court in recent years toward redistricting efforts that include racial considerations. That's helping drive polarization in Congress, because it produces districts that are extremely safe for either Democrats or Republicans.

Ultra-conservative Justice Clarence Thomas sided with four liberal justices in the 5-3 majority decision.

The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down two majority-black congressional districts created in a 2010 redistricting in North Carolina.

Calling the move "a watershed moment in the fight to end racial gerrymandering", former attorney general Eric Holder said North Carolina's maps "were among the worst racial gerrymanders in the nation".

The Supreme Court has never said legislative districts can not be mapped based on plainly partisan aims like maximizing one party's election chances. "But it also imposes an important constraint: A state may not use race as the predominant factor in drawing district lines unless it has a compelling reason". In February of a year ago, a federal district court disagreed and ruled that the use of race in drawing the CD1 was unconstitutional.

That's too many blacks in one district, according to the Court.

"Republicans have systematically drawn district lines to intentionally disenfranchise African-American and Latino voters for too long, but from Texas to North Carolina and beyond, the Constitution is catching up with them", Mr. Perez said. They redrew the maps in 2016. This brazenly undemocratic admission was part of a legal tactic meant to insulate the new lines from renewed racial gerrymandering claims, but it opened up the map to lawsuits alleging unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering. Election experts said the decision could help similar challenges in other southern states. They insisted that North Carolina's districts were merely "designed to accommodate the political concerns of a historically disadvantaged minority".

"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.

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"We have the utmost respect for the Supreme Court, but it is challenging for our lawmakers to draw congressional districts that the courts will accept when the courts regularly change the rules state legislatures must follow when drawing them", Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said in a statement.

Both districts have since been re-drawn, and the state conducted 2016 elections under the new congressional map but a separate challenge is still pending before the high court. Amazingly, all 10 Republican districts hit a flawless sweet spot with GOP support between 55 and 60 percent, a level that is high enough to be secure yet spreads around Republican voters just carefully enough to ensure the maximum number of GOP seats possible.

"But by further slimming the district and adding a couple of knobs to its snakelike body (including in Guilford County), the General Assembly incorporated tens of thousands of new voters and pushed out tens of thousands of old ones", Justice Kagan wrote.

Two districts were at issue and the court split differently on its votes.

The goal apparently was to dilute the voting power of African Americans in the Tar Heel State, by consolidating them into just two voting districts.

The court did so as to both districts, she noted, in part due to the deferential review that the Supreme Court gives to factual conclusions reached by lower courts.

Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy, would have reversed the lower court and upheld the map for one of the districts, District 12. The redistricters argued that this district was based on politics, not race.

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