RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) The Supreme Court’s ruling that two North Carolina congressional districts relied too heavily on race should give voting-rights advocates a potent tool to fight other electoral maps drawn to give Republicans an advantage in the state.
The court rejected arguments from state lawmakers that their objective in drawing the maps was not racial discrimination but partisan advantage. Bob Rucho, argued that the 12 District was drawn the way it was to pack Democrats, not African-Americans, into it. “What I find most significant is that the legislature made the same legal mistake and used race the same way in drawing the state’s House and Senate districts”.
“This is a transformation of the racial gerrymandering cases”, he says. This brazenly undemocratic admission was part of a legal tactic meant to insulate the new lines from renewed racial gerrymandering claims, but it opened up the map to lawsuits alleging unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering.
The Supreme Court deferred to the district court’s decision on CD12.
The justices upheld a lower court’s February 2016 ruling that threw out two majority-black U.S. House of Representatives districts. The result was to weaken African-American voting strength elsewhere in North Carolina.
But North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes complained of what he sees as continually changing rules on redistricting.
The state asserted that it had given one of the districts a majority of black voters to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act, which under certain circumstances can require such a district.
In District 1, the legislature increased black voting age population from 47.6 percent to 52.65 percent. Alito wrote that “District 12’s borders and racial composition are readily explained by political considerations and the effects of the legislature’s political strategy”.
Despite the 2013 decision, federal courts still found that state redistricting and voter identification laws are discriminatory.
By raising the populations of voting-age African-Americans in those districts to above 50 percent, “the General Assembly sought to diminish the impact of black voters in other parts of the state”, the Center said. 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 court split 5 to 3 on the constitutionality of District 12, with Clarence Thomas joining the court’s four liberal jurists in striking it down.
“That attempt, which in a sense was like shoveling or pushing black voters into particular districts in order to help themselves, the legislators, in other districts, that attempt turns out to be unconstitutional because it was an attempt that basically was founded on race”, Gerhardt said. “North Carolina’s maps were among the worst racial gerrymanders in the nation”.
These two districts were drawn in 2016 after the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Republicans had previously drawn congressional districts for the same objective, along racial lines. Justice Samuel Alito wrote an opinion concurring and dissenting in part joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy.
The two factors are highly correlated, Alito wrote. The question increasingly has been how do you tell the difference, especially when party affiliation correlates with race as it does in much of the South?
But the high court majority simply didn’t buy that argument.