No less than the U.S. Supreme Court affirms the obvious: Congressional districts in North Carolina drawn in 2011 were racial gerrymanders, aimed at diluting the power of black voters by packing them into some districts and giving Republicans an edge in others.
That's the lead you're likely to read as news outlets everywhere report on the high court's 5-3 decision declaring that North Carolina's Republican-controlled Legislature relied too heavily on race when it drew two congressional districts.
Kagan, writing for the court's majority, criticized lawmakers for increasing the share of black voters in the two districts to more than 50 percent, when experience had shown that was not necessary in order for minority voters to elect representatives of their choice. Bob Rucho, argued that the 12 District was drawn the way it was to pack Democrats, not African-Americans, into it. Its review concluded that race was the predominant factor in drawing the two districts at issue.
Applying a clear error standard, we uphold the District Court's conclusions that racial considerations predominated in designing both District 1 and District 12. "For District 1, we further uphold the District Court's decision that [Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965] gave North Carolina no good reason to reshuffle voters due to their race".
But even if he's right, what about states in which legal challenges to partisan gerrymandering can't be comfortably couched in racial terms?
Supreme Court strikes down redrawn North...
The Voting Rights Acts (VRA) allows states to use race as a factor when drawing district lines so as to ensure adequate representation of minorities in legislative bodies. That's helping drive polarization in Congress, because it produces districts that are extremely safe for either Democrats or Republicans.
North Carolina is (unofficially) the GOP's policy lab in that numerous party's more controversial policies are first tested there. She said the state's contention that it was simply adding Democrats was contradicted by testimony that only 18 percent of the region's white Democrats ended up in the district, while 65 percent of black Democrats did.
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Race can be considered in redrawing boundaries of voting districts only in certain instances, such as when states are seeking to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act.
Wayne Goodwin, head of the Democratic Party and a long-time commissioner of insurance, had it right when he said, "North Carolina's congressional districts have frequently been used as an example of some of the most gerrymandered maps in the country". The court struck that map, 8-0.
That's not what North Carolina Republicans did. The new districts already have been challenged in court.
The two congressional districts at issue in the Supreme Court case Cooper v. Harris.
The split among the justices was over the 12th district. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy dissented.
"Although States enjoy leeway to take race-based actions reasonably judged necessary under a proper interpretation of the Voting Rights Act, that latitude can not rescue District 1", Kagan said in the opinion of the court. Justice Neil Gorsuch didn't take part in the case, which was argued before he joined the court.