On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled against the excessive use of racial considerations in redistricting North Carolina’s congressional boundaries.
Justice Elena Kagan penned the 5-3 ruling, which concluded that in an effort to maximize Republicans’ advantage, North Carolina lawmakers did take race into consideration when drawing congressional maps after the 2010 Census.
In March, the high court called for an additional lower court review of 11 Virginia state legislature districts that were designed by Republicans with black voting-age populations of at least 55%. Back in 2015, a decision went against the way Alabama’s state legislative districts were drawn.
According to Kagan, North Carolina’s 1st district “produced boundaries amplifying divisions between blacks and whites,” while in the 12th, “race, not politics, accounted for the district’s reconfiguration.”
Justice Clarence Thomas agreed with the court’s four liberal justices in their decision to strike down the state’s maps.
Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Anthony Kennedy, and Justice Samuel Alito dissented, agreeing with state officials that the district maps were not drawn that way to disenfranchise black voters, but rather to help Republicans.
“Partisan gerrymandering is always unsavory, but that is not the issue here,” Alito wrote. “The issue is whether District 12 was drawn predominantly because of race. The record shows that it was not.”
States are required by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to draw districts in a way that will help black people elect their chosen representatives by not being spread thinly across district lines.
Democrats used the law to demand so-called “majority-minority” districts twenty years ago, but since Republicans took over many state legislatures in 2010, they have drawn districts in such a way that critics claim are designed to keep surrounding districts whiter and more Republican.
Two North Carolina congressional districts have gone the Supreme Court route a few times in the past. A federal district court ruled that Republican lawmakers placed more black residents into those districts than was necessary, but that ruling was successfully challenged by the state.
Meanwhile, another case from Wisconsin could give them a chance to rule on partisan, instead of racial, gerrymandering. The court has yet to decide how much of a political advantage is too much.
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