North Carolina gerrymandered districts suppressed black votes, Supreme Court rules

But it looms large in other battles unfolding over voting districts there and elsewhere. The Court tossed both Districts and told North Carolina that they are BAD RACISTS WHO SHOULD FEEL BAD. She said the state's arguments do not "withstand strict scrutiny".

Writing for the court, Justice Elena Kagan said the state failed to offer compelling justification for why it so deliberately grouped black voters into the districts at the center of the legal dispute.

When the court next hears a case challenging a partisan gerrymander outside the context of race, it should make Kennedy's insight the law of the land. But earlier this year the Supreme Court temporarily halted an order to redraw those legislative districts.

The state maintained that it was required to do that under the Voting Rights Act, but today the Supreme Court unanimously rejected that argument, as it has in similar cases from Alabama and Virginia.

African-American and Democratic critics accused Republicans of drawing districts to contain more African Americans than necessary to keep surrounding districts more white and more Republican.

In its defense, the state argued that party politics was the reason for drawing the lines as they did, and that race was not a factor. They found that this was another example of the excessive use of race in redistricting.

"This case is a big deal because it's going to make it much easier for voting rights plaintiffs, especially in the American South, to challenge gerrymanders that are done by Republican legislatures", says Richard Hasen of the University of California, Irvine.

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

The two majority-black congressional districts originated in the 2010 redistricting of North Carolina Congressional districts. But the state legislature nonetheless added 35,000 African-Americans to the district and subtracted 50,000 whites of voting age.

Second, North Carolina used the services of Republican demographer Tom Hofeller, profiled in the Atlantic article "The League of Dangerous Mapmakers".

The state asserted that it had given one of the districts a majority of black voters to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act, which under certain circumstances can require such a district. And by a 5-3 vote, the court found that the evidence in the case "debunked" the state's contention that in setting racial targets, it was acting not with any racial motive, but only for partisan advantage.

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

A three-judge federal court had previously struck down the two districts. Justice Neil Gorsuch did not take part in the case. G.K. Butterfield represents the 1st District, while Rep. Alma Adams represents the 12th District.

Before Republican legislators put these new lines into place, the black population in both the 1st and the 12th constituted a plurality in each of those districts. Poor North Carolina won't be able to draw a line around all the brown people and defend it by saying they were just trying to corral all the Democrats in one district. Sad!

"North Carolina voters deserve a level playing field and fair elections and I'm glad the Supreme Court agrees", said Cooper in a statement released Monday. The decision was seen as a boon to the Democrats, as accounting for the total population, which includes children, felons, and noncitizens, can lead to vast differences in the number of voters in a particular district, as well as differences in the power of those voters.

  • Wendy Palmer