Summary: The Supreme Court voted 5-3 against the new state legislature districts, finding they were racially motivated.
The Supreme Court has ruled against the congressional maps in North Carolina in a 5-3 ruling, saying they were drawn with the purpose of placing on advantage on Republicans. North Carolina lawmakers drew the new borders after the 2010 Census provided an indicator towards racial considerations.
Justice Elena Kagan wrote the decision, following a series of similar rulings against new Congress and state legislature lines drawn in other states. Justice Clarence Thomas voted alongside the four liberal justices. They found that this was another example of the excessive use of race in redistricting. Just a few months ago, the Supreme Court ordered a lower court review of 11 state legislature districts in Virginia where there was at least 55 percent black voting-age populations. A similar order was made against Alabama in 2015.
The federal district court had struck down the congressional districts, specifically the 1st and 12th, because there were too many black voters in them, causing the other districts to not have enough to provide any influence. The Supreme Courtâs ruling upheld that decision with Kagan noting that the 1st district âproduced boundaries amplifying divisions between blacks and whiteâ with the 12th district having ârace, not politics, accounted for the districtâs reconfiguration.â
Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, and Chief Justice John Roberts dissented on the 12th district lines. They sided with state officials that the district was drawn for political gain not to disenfranchise black voters. Alito wrote, âPartisan gerrymandering is always unsavory, but that is not the issue here. 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.â Alito also noted a 2001 case where the Supreme Court upheld a similar configuration for the same district. âA precedent of this court should not be treated like a disposable household item â say, a paper plate of napkin â to be used once and then tossed in the trash,â Alito argued.
According to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, states must draw districts so that they provide African Americans the ability elect their chosen representatives instead of being spread thin throughout all the districts so that they have no influence overall. Democrats used the law twenty years ago to create âmajority-minorityâ districts. In 2010, when Republicans took control over many state legislatures, they used the opportunity to redraw districts. Democrats claim they redrew the lines to keep more districts whiter and Republican while making a few districts have more blacks than necessary.
Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation called the ruling a further example of âthe confused state of the law.â He continued, âThe Supreme Court says race can be a factor in redistricting but no the predominant factor, a rule that is so vague, so broad, and so lacking in a definable legal standard that it is not really a rule at all.â
North Carolina has had problems with these districts before. The 12th district has gone before the Supreme Court five times. It follows Interstate 85 in a snakelike fashion. Kagan explained that the latest district added about 35,000 black voters even though it is already deemed an African American district since after the 1990 Census.
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