24 May, 2017
The justices upheld a lower court's February 2016 ruling that threw out two majority-black U.S. House of Representatives districts.
On Monday, in a 5-3 decision, the court upheld a ruling that two congressional districts were illegal racial gerrymanders. They sided with state officials that the district was drawn for political gain not to disenfranchise black voters. Right? I mean, that's the question the district court was trying to answer.
"We have the utmost respect for the Supreme Court, but it is challenging for our lawmakers to draw congressional districts that the courts will accept when the courts regularly change the rules state legislatures must follow when drawing them", said Amy Auth, a spokeswoman for North Carolina Senate Leader Phil Berger.
"North Carolina's congressional districts have frequently been used as an example as some of the most gerrymandered maps in the country", he said.
That is one of the most important parts of the decision, said Richard Pildes, an election law expert at New York University.
The contested districts were both held by black Democrats. Bob Rucho, argued that the 12 District was drawn the way it was to pack Democrats, not African-Americans, into it. It's been progressing. It went from a tool being used by conservatives to stop the creation of majority-minority districts to now a tool to try to pull these Republican gerrymanders in southern states. At the time, progressives viewed Shaw and its predecessors as an assault on the VRA-a Republican effort to prevent states from helping black voters choose their own representatives.
North Carolina lawmakers had drawn district lines such that District one and District 12 had increases of voting-age African-Americans by four percentage points and seven percentage points, respectively. The Tar Heel State GOP argued that this move was constitutional, since they were not diluting the influence of black voters for the sake of racial discrimination, but merely for that of partisan advantage.
"This is a watershed moment in the fight to end racial gerrymandering", stated Eric H. Holder Jr., chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee.
Robert Lighthizer sworn in as US Trade Representative
Lighthizer has worked in Washington since the early 1970s, during which he served as the Senate Finance Committee's chief counsel and staff director.
"The evidence at trial - including live witness testimony subject to credibility determinations - adequately supports the District Court's conclusion that race, not politics, accounted for District 12's reconfiguration", Kagan wrote.
Reverend William Barber, the president of the North Carolina NAACP - who is leaving that post shortly to revive Dr. Martin Luther King's Poor People's Campaign - said that the ruling shows that the state "engaged in systemic racism and cheated to win elections", according to the Associated Press.
States reconsider districts following each census, and the endeavor is a political football.
The split among the justices was over the 12th district.
Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, and Chief Justice John Roberts dissented on the 12 district lines. Justice Clarence Thomas sided with the more liberal Justices Elena Kegan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.
Justice Neil Gorsuch, who had not yet joined the court when arguments in the case were heard in December, did not participate in the ruling. The Republican legislature explained its shape by saying it was based on partisan, not racial, concerns. It did that by adding mostly black voters to the district from the heavily black neighborhood of Durham and creating a district that now was majority black instead of a district with a substantial but minority share of black voters. "W$3 e further uphold the District Court's decision that §2 of the VRA gave North Carolina no good reason to reshuffle voters due to their race", the opinion states.
Nevertheless, Monday's ruling is a significant victory in a state that has been ground zero in the battle over voting rights. States are generally not allowed to use race as the predominant factor in drawing district lines.