Supreme Court agrees: GOP lawmakers used race to redraw voting districts

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

North Carolina insisted that it made good-faith efforts to abide by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlaws racial discrimination in the United States electoral process.

Both districts are held by Democrats.

NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: More than a quarter-century ago, the Supreme Court ruled that drawing legislative district lines based on race is unconstitutional.

In response to that ruling, state lawmakers redrew North Carolina's congressional maps past year, that time claiming they would not consider race at all.

Justice Elena Kagan wrote that the borders were drawn so that they "purposefully established a racial target: African-Americans should make up no less than a majority of the voting-age population".

The high court rejected state lawmakers' claim that the districts, near urban areas of Raleigh and Charlotte, were drawn to create partisan advantage, rather than to group high concentrations of voters based on race. Conversely, the VRA requires states to consider race in redistricting if they have large minority populations.

A panel of federal judges ruled in March that three of Texas' congressional districts are illegal, violating the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act.

Justices Samuel Alito, John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy agreed that the districts favored Republicans, but disagreed that they were determined by race. For District 1, we 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.

"This is a watershed moment in the fight to end racial gerrymandering", said Eric Holder, the former Democratic attorney general now chairing the National Democratic Redistricting Committee.

The justices split 5-3 on the other district, District 12 in the southwestern part of the state.

The justices were unanimous in striking down District 1, located in the northeastern part of the Tar Heel State, according to The New York Times.

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.

Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump's recent addition to the Supreme Court, did not vote because he was not yet on the court when the case was heard.

The state insisted that race played no role at all in the creation of one district. That law protects minority voters and was enacted to address a history of racial discrimination in voting, especially in Southern states. The new districts already have been challenged in court. The justices could act on the challenge to the state districts as early as next week.

A lawyer challenging the General Assembly districts said legislative mapmakers used similar reasoning to defend the congressional and legislative maps, so Monday's ruling bolsters her cause. Democrats claim they redrew the lines to keep more districts whiter and Republican while making a few districts have more blacks than necessary.

Hayes added, "I don't know how any legislature can perform this task when the rules change constantly from case to case, often after the fact".

The dissenting justices attacked the majority for ostensibly tossing out a pre-existing precedent for District 12 in Easley v. Cromartie.

  • Larry Hoffman