High court ruling may give voter rights groups a strong tool

Now to a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court that’s likely to affect how congressional and state legislative districts are drawn.

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

When a voter sues state officials for drawing such race-based lines, this Court’s decisions call for a two-step analysis.

The justices split 5-3 on the other territory, District 12 winding from Charlotte to Greensboro.

When the North Carolina map was struck down by a lower court, judges explained why. “And therefore, when a state legislature passes a redistricting law with a partisan motivation that has a racial component to it, then that could constitute racial gerrymandering”. Republican lawmakers have repeated argued from the beginning that District 12 was drawn to comply with the Voting Rights Act. At the same time, race can’t be the predominant factor without very strong reasons, under a series of high court decisions. As Justice Elena Kagan wrote in the majority opinion, “the sorting of voters on the grounds of their race remains suspect even if race is meant to function as a proxy for other (including political) characteristics”. Virginia faces judicial review for 11 districts, and Alabama also saw some districts struck down in 2015.

“This will lead to many more successful racial gerrymandering cases in the American South”, said Prof. Indeed, Richard Hasen of the University of California, Irvine, says that yesterday’s ruling has transformed the legal topography, reviving racial gerrymandering claims once thought futile. The panel found that Republicans had used race as a motivating factor in redistricting.

The court found the that the Republican legislature was unconstitutional when it used race to draw the district lines, which reduced the voting power of minorities in the state.

“North Carolina voters deserve a level playing field and fair elections, and I’m glad the Supreme Court agrees”, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, said. Republicans maintained control of 10 of 13 districts.

North Carolina is (unofficially) the GOP’s policy lab in that numerous party’s more controversial policies are first tested there.

In District 1, after the census, black people of voting age rose from 48.6 percent to 52.7 percent.

Justice Clarence Thomas joined the four liberal justices in the majority. District 12 was also reconfigured, increasing African-American voters from 43.8 percent to 50.7 percent. She said the state’s contention that it was simply adding Democrats was contradicted by testimony that only 18 percent of the region’s white Democrats ended up in the district, while 65 percent of black Democrats did.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and Samuel A. Alito Jr. were the dissenters in the decision.

In the case Earls is arguing, a federal court had previously thrown out 28 state House and Senate districts as illegal racial gerrymanders. The majority relieved the challengers of providing such a map in this case, he said.

In addition to the practical consequences that Monday’s ruling could have for redistricting in North Carolina in 2018, and in the rest of the country after the 2020 census, there is a fascinating political twist to the North Carolina case.

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