North Carolina gerrymandered districts suppressed black votes, Supreme Court rules

Gloria Browne Marshall AANIC Supreme Court Correspondent

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". They also said the Justice Department's appointment of a special counsel has created a legally unsafe environment for him to cooperate with the Senate panel's investigation. After the 2010 census, lawmakers increased the district's black voting-age population to 52.7 percent from 48.6 percent.

"I don't know how any legislature can perform this task when the rules change constantly from case to case, often after the fact", Robin Hayes, chairman of the state Republican Party, said of redistricting.

The court specifically took issue with the districts held by Republican Reps.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that North Carolina lawmakers relied too heavily on race in deciding how to redraw congressional lines in two districts. Because those districts were already redrawn for the 2016 election, the ruling doesn't require immediate changes from North Carolina. A state can not satisfy strict scrutiny, the court concluded, based on "no evidence". "This opinion, with Justice (Clarence) Thomas joining the majority, must mean those districts are also unconstitutional", Anita Earls, executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which has sued over the legislative districts, said in a statement. He agreed that the court correctly deferred to the lower court's "plausible" interpretation of the evidence.

North Carolina's First and Twelfth Congressional Districts were at issue, with both being known for their odd shapes (the First has been compared to an octopus) that arose from their very deliberately drawn borders. Kagan questioned the state's argument that mapmakers "drew their lines ... to "pack" District 12 with Democrats, not African-Americans". Rick Hasen, a widely-cited elections law expert at the University of California, Irvine, wrote on his blog following the opinion: "Holy cow this is a big deal.This will lead to many more successful racial gerrymandering cases in the American South and elsewhere".

In recent years, the vast majority of African-American voters have historically voted Democrat, which can cause some confusion when trying to differentiate between standard gerrymandering and racial gerrymandering, according to dissenting Justice Alito. That's why challenging partisan gerrymandering is so important now. In situations where race and party politics are intertwined, that might no longer be the case, per Monday's court ruling. He was joined by conservative Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy. And that case is now pending before the Supreme Court. Partisan gerrymandering has always been legally acceptable.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. They prefer districts that are only 30% or so black so blacks, together with homosexuals, union members, wacko environmentalists, government employees, and brainwashed college graduates, can elect Democrats.

The US Supreme Court today rejected two voting districts redesigned by North Carolina lawmakers for political gerrymandering, saying that the realignment was done to disadvantage African American voters in the state. NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg has more.

But even if he's right, what about states in which legal challenges to partisan gerrymandering can't be comfortably couched in racial terms? But once again, we can only dream of a day when legislative and congressional districts are drawn and approved by an independent nonpartisan panel with a mission to put together districts with equal numbers of people, period, without regard to political affilation.

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