nsucurrent.com February 22, 2018

Supreme Court's North Carolina's gerrymandering ruling is a big deal

24 May 2017, 05:21 | Violet Powell

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Getty Images

The justices agreed Monday with a federal court that had struck down two congressional districts as illegally race-based.

Eric Holder, who was USA attorney general under President Barack Obama and now heads the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, a group backing Democrats in redistricting fights, welcomed the decision. "North Carolina's maps were among the worst racial gerrymanders in the nation". In a brief to the Supreme Court, the legal team defending the Republican map argued that past voting behavior in CD1 could not predict future voting, particularly since the 2011 map added almost 100,000 people to the district.

North Carolina leaders said the court had made the rules regarding redistricting even murkier. The only exception is when a state has a compelling reason to do so, such as complying with the Voting Rights Act's requirement that minority voters not be unfairly prevented from electing the candidates of their choice.

Later, as to the second district, Kagan wrote, "W$3 e uphold the District Court's finding of racial predominance respecting District 12". The court ruled yesterday - Supreme Court - that the Republican-controlled legislature in North Carolina had drawn two congressional districts that amount to unconstitutional racial gerrymandering.

Justice [Elena] Kagan said black voters, in coalitions with others, had been able to elect their preferred candidates even before the redistricting. They redrew the maps in 2016. Justice Elena Kagan called the creation by Republicans a "racial gerrymander" and a "legal mistake".

That is one of the most important parts of the decision, said Richard Pildes, an election law expert at New York University. They insisted that North Carolina's districts were merely "designed to accommodate the political concerns of a historically disadvantaged minority".

In striking down North Carolina's congressional district map, the Supreme Court sent Texas a firm warning Monday about how the state's case may fare if it reaches that stage.

As explained the ruling, states do have to consider race when they draw the lines for a whole host of political district, but they can't make it the sole factor - without strong justification - in determining where district lines will go.

The high court's 5-3 ruling announced Monday is only one in which districts drawn by Republicans across the United States have been challenged on the basis of alleged gerrymandering. Amazingly, all 10 Republican districts hit a ideal sweet spot with GOP support between 55 and 60 percent, a level that is high enough to be secure yet spreads around Republican voters just carefully enough to ensure the maximum number of GOP seats possible.

Justice Kagan added that "within the same counties, the portions that fall inside District 1 have black populations two to three times larger than the portions placed in neighboring districts".

Voters in those districts sued, claiming that the lawmakers had intentionally reduced African American voter turnout in other parts of North Carolina.

Both districts are held by Democrats.

In 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that partisan gerrymandering could potentially be challenged as unconstitutional if it involved "intentional discrimination against an identifiable political group and an actual discriminatory effect on that group". The majority relieved the challengers of providing such a map in this case, he said. "A precedent of this court should not be treated like a disposable household item - say, a paper plate of napkin - to be used once and then tossed in the trash", Alito argued.

"North Carolina's congressional districts have frequently been used as an example as some of the most gerrymandered maps in the country", he said.

The case is Cooper v. Harris, formerly McCrory v. Harris.

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