Supreme Court rules race improperly dominated NC redistricting efforts

The Supreme Court struck down two congressional districts in North Carolina Monday because race played too large a role in their creation, a decision voting rights advocates said would boost challenges in other states.

Kang said, while the Supreme Court decision doesn't rule out the partisan defense, now states may have less discretion in redesigning districts.

North Carolina Lawmakers defended the revision of these two districts at least in part by reasoning that they aimed to comply with the Voting Rights Act, a piece of legislation that sometimes stipulates redistricting to concentrate numbers of African American voters in order to gain a critical mass of people that could elect their chosen candidate, according to The New York Times.

Justice [Elena] Kagan said black voters, in coalitions with others, had been able to elect their preferred candidates even before the redistricting. This decision will make it easier to challenge GOP racial gerrymanders elsewhere, which is significant because Republicans in almost every Southern state could have drawn another congressional district that would elect black or Latino voters's candidate of choice.

Justices struck down two Congressional districts, ruling that Republicans who controlled the State Legislature and Governor's office in 2011 placed too many African Americans in those districts.

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. Kagan explained that the latest district added about 35,000 black voters even though it is already deemed an African American district since after the 1990 Census.

"A precedent of this Court should not be treated like a disposable household item - say, a paper plate or napkin - to be used once and then tossed in the trash", Alito wrote. Alabama left open two questions that Cooper and an earlier case from this term, Bethune-Hill v. Virginia State Board of Elections, try to answer: (1) How does a court go about deciding whether a state drew an individual district predominantly on the basis of race such that strict scrutiny applies? With its five public and several private historically black campuses extended throughout the state, North Carolina could once again become a powerful national example of HBCU advocacy in state governance.

In short, the court's decision on CD 12 seems destined to lead to more judicial involvement in redistricting. Bob Rucho (R-Mecklenburg) crafted new congressional districts that they claimed would not consider race at all.

Clarence Thomas, one of the court's most conservative members, joined Kagan's opinion along with three other more liberal jurists, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor. The GOP leaders have long contended that partisanship is common in redistricting and that race wasn't the issue.

As a result, the ruling sends the North Carolina Legislature back to the drawing board - with significant potential implications for the 2018 midterm elections.

Robin Hayes, the state Republican chairman, said court rulings on redistricting have put legislative mapmakers "in an impossible situation, with their constantly changing standards".

"The Court made it clear that it would not allow states to get away with unlawful racial gerrymandering by claiming that it's just politics".

The three-judge panel previous year called that argument "more of an afterthought than a clear objective", and the Supreme Court majority upheld that stance for both districts.

In Monday's opinion, Kagan also wrote: "The Constitution entrusts states with the job of designing congressional districts".

Justice Neil Gorsuch, who had not yet joined the court when it heard arguments in the case in December, did not participate.