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Supreme Court rules NC congressional districts gerrymandered

Supreme Court rules NC congressional districts gerrymandered

The U.S. Supreme Court has invalidated two North Carolina congressional districts, ruling they were created for the objective of illegally packing in Black voters. The Nation's Ari Berman noted yesterday, "T$3 hese GOP efforts are increasingly running afoul of the courts, who've now struck down GOP-drawn redistricting maps in Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia - all states that previously had to approve their voting changes with the federal government under the Voting Rights Act".

North Carolina Lawmakers defended the revision of these two districts at least in part by reasoning that they aimed to comply with the Voting Rights Act, a piece of legislation that sometimes stipulates redistricting to concentrate numbers of African American voters in order to gain a critical mass of people that could elect their chosen candidate, according to The New York Times. The NAACP called this habit "apartheid voting districts" and claimed Republicans weaken and minimize the voting rights of black voters by packing them into one district and diluting their influence while surrounding them with more white voters that are likely to support Republican candidates.

The US Supreme Court today rejected two voting districts redesigned by North Carolina lawmakers for political gerrymandering, saying that the realignment was done to disadvantage African American voters in the state.

Carolina's 12th Congressional District: "The Court junks a rule adopted in a prior, remarkably similar challenge to this very same congressional district", Alito wrote in the dissent.

North Carolina leaders said the court had made the rules regarding redistricting even murkier. North Carolina's voters would be much better served if a bipartisan or nonpartisan independent commission did the work, as happens in some other states.

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. "So long as the legislature chose to retain the basic shape of District 12 and to increase the number of Democrats in the district, it was inevitable that the Democrats brought in would be disproportionately black". North Carolina lawmakers drew the new borders after the 2010 Census provided an indicator towards racial considerations.

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In a dissenting opinion, Justice Samuel Alito said said the court ignored past precedent in finding that race was the motivating factor in drawing District 12. Since then, plaintiffs have struggled to prove that gerrymanders used race as a "predominant factor" (illegal) rather than party registration (legal).

The ruling Monday will not impact North Carolina's congressional districts as now drawn.

Justice Clarence Thomas, the court's most conservative justice, and its only African-American, cast the decisive fifth vote, joining the court's four liberal justices. They redrew the maps in 2016.

In response to Monday's ruling, Robin Hayes, the chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party, issued a statement says "the courts have put legislatures in an impossible situation, with their constantly changing standards". Democrats used the law twenty years ago to create "majority-minority" districts. Justice Neil Gorsuch, who joined the court in April, did not participate in the ruling.

We hope Monday's court ruling helps propel agreement on the need to revamp our redistricting process. But the court held that compliance with traditional districting criteria was still something a lower court could consider.

"The evidence at trial - including live witness testimony subject to credibility determinations - adequately supports the District Court's conclusion that race, not politics, accounted for District 12's reconfiguration", Kagan wrote.

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