SCOTUS Ruling On NC Congressional Districts Could Set Precedent

Posted May 27, 2017

The court found that the ruling obliged the North Carolina legislature to redraw the maps, which will have significant potential implications for the 2018 midterm elections. "The North Carolina Republican legislature tried to rig congressional elections by drawing unconstitutional districts that discriminated against African-Americans and that's wrong".

The court's majority rejected GOP claims that political considerations were the primary factor in how the maps were drawn, according to UNC Constitutional Law Professor Michael Gerhardt.

However, the North Carolina GOP's new, allegedly "partisan-only" map is still in place at the moment, and there's still a long way to go before it, too, might come undone at the hands of the courts. The justices could act on the challenge to the state districts as early as next week.

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that North Carolina illegally packed black voters into two voting districts.

The Voting Rights Acts (VRA) allows states to use race as a factor when drawing district lines so as to ensure adequate representation of minorities in legislative bodies. "The issue is whether District 12 was drawn predominantly because of race".

In a similar case in 2001 challenging the constitutionality of District 12, the challenger lost because they failed to provide an alternative map that served the legislature's political objective without producing the same racial effect.

For more, election-law expert Rick Hasen's perspective is always worthwhile, and he wrote a detailed analysis on his blog yesterday, and a Washington Post op-ed today. The court tries to make an artificial distinction between gerrymandering by race and by partisanship, but since blacks tend to vote uniformly Democratic, the two are really one and the same.

Thomas even wrote a brief concurring opinion. Adding more black voters to the district, she wrote, amounted to an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.

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

In doing so, Kagan said the court would not "approve a racial gerrymander whose necessity is supported by no evidence and whose raison d'être is a legal mistake".

The justices split 5-3 on the other territory, District 12 winding from Charlotte to Greensboro. The court's newest member, Justice Neil Gorsuch, was installed after arguments in the case and did not take part in the ruling. Certainly race played a role in that process. Black voters in North Carolina - and, indeed, in the nation as a whole - overwhelming tend to prefer Democrats over Republicans.

With every legal loss, the embarrassment mounts for North Carolina, which once thought of itself as a progressive state when compared to its southern neighbors.

Cooper issued a statement applauding the Supreme Court for supporting "a level playing field and fair elections" for voters. North Carolina is a relatively evenly divided swing state-Donald Trump won it by just 3 points last year-yet these lines offered Republicans 10 safe districts while creating three lopsidedly Democratic seats.

The ruling is a welcome blow against the time-dishonored practice of gerrymandering - drawing district lines to give one party an unfair advantage - but it won't eliminate the practice completely.