Supreme Court Rejects 2 N.C. Congressional Districts As Unconstitutional

On May 15th, it was the state's voter laws. As a result of the lower court ruling, the districts had already been redrawn, so Monday's decision will not change the alignment of the districts.

Members of North Carolina student chapters of the NAACP protest the state's voter ID law in 2013, which was also struck down by the courts for targeting minorities "with nearly surgical precision", said a federal judge.

"Partisan gerrymandering is always unsavory, but that is not the issue here", Alito wrote.

"I could teach an election law course using only cases from North Carolina", he quips.

In a statement to local news outlet WRAL, North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes complained of what he sees as continually changing rules on redistricting: "Our position continues to be the same as the Obama Justice Department on this issue, which pre-cleared these districts as fair and legal".

The 12th wasn't alone in this particular case. North Carolina's voters would be much better served if a bipartisan or nonpartisan independent commission did the work, as happens in some other states. Critics said the goal was to dilute minority voting strength outside of those two districts and preserve the power of neighboring white Republicans. Instead, the state argued that Republicans who controlled the redistricting process wanted to leave the district in Democratic hands, so that the surrounding districts would be safer for Republicans.

Lawyers representing North Carolina argued they were simply complying with the Voter Rights Act. The overtures are also bad harbingers for an upcoming Wisconsin case that challenges partisan gerrymandering. The Supreme Court's ruling upheld that decision with Kagan noting that the 1 district "produced boundaries amplifying divisions between blacks and white" with the 12 district having "race, not politics, accounted for the district's reconfiguration".

As noted above, this now-invalidated congressional map was one of, if not the very most, aggressive partisan gerrymanders in modern history.

The state insisted that race played no role at all in the creation of one district.

Redistricting is part of a bare-knuckled fight in North Carolina, where Democrats and Republicans uneasily share political power.

CLEMENT: "When it comes to CD 12, we look at the benchmark map, that's a political draw". More blacks spread out among more districts means more Democrats elected. But that's not all.

Of the ruling, Rick Hasen writes a his Electionlaw blog: "Holy cow this is a big deal".

"She seems to suggest that race and party overlap with one another in certain places like North Carolina". By a unanimous vote, the court rejected North Carolina's argument that it was required by the Voting Rights Act to create these two majority black districts. First, because 12th District Congressman Mel Watt testified that Senator Rucho tried that nonsense out on him about increasing BVA for the VRA. The majority relieved the challengers of providing such a map in this case, he said.

With Justice Neil Gorsuch abstaining (the case was heard before he was confirmed), the swing vote came somewhat surprisingly from conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, who sided with the four liberal justices in a vote of five to eight. But The Heritage Foundation's Hans von Spakovsky highlighted "the confused state of the law" when he said, "The Supreme Court says race can be a factor in redistricting but not the predominant factor, a rule that is so vague, so broad, and so lacking in a definable legal standard that it is not really a rule at all".

  • Zachary Reyes