Supreme Court Strikes Down 2 North Carolina Congressional Districts

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that North Carolina's Republican-controlled legislature unlawfully relied on race when drawing two of the state's congressional districts.

Even better, the decision establishes a new precedent that the Court will not tolerate gerrymandering that uses race as a proxy for political party.

The North Carolina districts in question include one of the state's largest, District 1, and one of its smallest, District 12.

Justice Clarence Thomas joined the four liberal justices in the majority. - Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett).

"Accordingly, we uphold the District Court's conclusion that North Carolina's use of race as the predominant factor in designing District 1 does not withstand strict scrutiny", she wrote.

The Supreme Court decided that the Republican legislature in North Carolina impermissibly considered the racial rather than the partisan makeup of the state's population when drawing congressional districts.

Alito wrote the dissenting opinion saying that the challengers did not prove lines weren't part of a partisan strategy.

State lawmakers then tried to have the federal lawsuit tossed on the grounds that the plaintiffs were members of the same organizations that had just its case in state court. Instead, legislative leaders openly boasted they would gerrymander along partisan lines to give Republicans maximum advantage. They did not produce one in this case either. And there is much in Justice Elena Kagan's opinion for the Court that highlights how fundamentally broken the law governing gerrymandering will continue to be even after Monday's decision.

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According to The Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan organization that submitted a friend-of-the-court brief, the North Carolina state legislature intentionally packed thousands of black voters into two congressional districts where they already consistently elected Democratic candidates.

Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat, lauded the decision on Twitter.

The decision continued a trend at the court, where justices have found that racial considerations improperly predominated in redistricting decisions by Republican-led legislatures in Virginia, Alabama and North Carolina.

The civil rights group the NAACP had accused Republicans of packing African-American voters into what the organization described as "apartheid voting districts" to weaken their clout.

Republicans in the North Carolina legislature tried to argue that their goal for redrawing the lines wasn't about race but rather about partisan advantage.

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. They redrew the maps in 2016. The state voted in new districts in the 2016 elections, with Republicans maintaining their 10-3 advantage in the new districts.

North Carolina's 12th congressional district is well known to the U.S. Supreme Court and election law experts like professor Rick Hasen, who also runs the Election Law Blog.

"To be specific, the new District 12 had 35,000 more African-Americans of voting age and 50,000 fewer whites of that age", Kagan wrote. "I don't know how any legislature can perform this task when the rules change constantly from case to case, often after the fact". Again, partisan gerrymandering is now allowed under USA law, but the Supreme Court will likely address this topic, too, in a series of related cases from other states.

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