Health Care

Supreme Court Tosses Out Two Gerrymandered North Carolina District Maps

Supreme Court Tosses Out Two Gerrymandered North Carolina District Maps

At the time, progressives viewed Shaw and its predecessors as an assault on the VRA-a Republican effort to prevent states from helping black voters choose their own representatives.

In Monday's decision on North Carolina's congressional map, the justices were unanimous in rejecting District 1, in the northeastern part of the state.

That is, however, precisely what GOP officials in North Carolina did in one of the most ridiculous contemporary examples of gerrymandering in the country.

As a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday reminds us, Washingtonians should be thankful for the manner in which the state defines congressional and legislative districts.

"I could teach an election law course using only cases from North Carolina", he quips.

Justice Elena Kagan wrote the opinion, which said lawmakers (meaning Republicans) relied too heavily on race when drawing the districts.

The 12th wasn't alone in this particular case. These two districts have historically been ones with high concentrations of minority voters.

Republican state Rep. David Lewis even explicitly defended the redrawn map as a partisan gerrymander, stating unequivocally that it was meant to maintain the maximum possible edge for the GOP.

"Although States enjoy leeway to take race-based actions reasonably judged necessary under a proper interpretation of the Voting Rights Act, that latitude can not rescue District 1", Justice Elena Kagan said in her majority opinion, as The Hill reports. Such a distinction matters because African-Americans tend to vote overwhelmingly in favor of Democrats, and the Supreme Court has only deemed racial gerrymandering as constitutionally problematic.

But the decision on the much-litigated 12th is where precedent may be set. With the second district, the state argued that increasing of the number of eligible black voters was motivated not by race but by purely partisan considerations.

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Redistricting is part of a bare-knuckled fight in North Carolina, where Democrats and Republicans uneasily share political power. He is then questioned by Justice Kagan. "The issue is whether District 12 was drawn predominantly because of race". The court frequently recognizes that politics and race are related.

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. But that's not all.

Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California Irvine, summed up his reaction to the distinction: "Holy cow this is a big deal". They also said the Justice Department's appointment of a special counsel has created a legally risky environment for him to cooperate with the Senate panel's investigation. And voting rights claims will likely have more strength in the courts. "It is a logical response to the hard problem of distinguishing between racial and political motivations when race and political party preference closely correlate", Alito wrote, noting there was "strong evidence" that the map was drawn to "maximize Republican opportunities".

The case was heard before Cooper took office, and attorneys for North Carolina argued the state finds itself in a bind.

The first has to do with these same two congressional districts.

But Kagan said the federal court found a reasonable distinction between the two cases and allowed the federal case to move forward.

That reliance on partisan gerrymandering as a legal excuse will not hold, Kagan wrote.

But Robin Hayes, the North Carolina GOP chairman, said court rulings on redistricting have put legislative mapmakers "in an impossible situation, with their constantly changing standards".

Kang said, while the Supreme Court decision doesn't rule out the partisan defense, now states may have less discretion in redesigning districts. The courts found substantial evidence to undercut that argument. And that case is now pending before the Supreme Court.


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