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The Guardians of Democracy

Supreme Court Once Again Strikes Down Racially Gerrymandered NC Legislative Districts


Supreme Court Once Again Strikes Down Racially Gerrymandered NC Legislative Districts

The Supreme Court upheld on Monday a lower court’s decision to throw out state legislative district lines, the latest ruling against districts drawn while considering race.

“When a legislature relies on race as the predominant factor in drawing district lines … it reinforces the perception that members of the same racial group — regardless of their age, education, economic status, or the community in which they live — think alike, share the same political interests, and will prefer the same candidates at the polls,” the judges wrote.

The Huffington Post added:

“As a result of that ruling, the same judges left the state legislative maps — nine for the state Senate, 19 for the state House of Representatives — in place for the November election.

The court later ordered the state General Assembly to come up with new state legislative maps and to hold a special election in 2017, with anyone elected before and after that election to serve a one-year term. That forced newly elected lawmakers to urge the Supreme Court to put the ordered redistricting and special election on hold while they filed a broader appeal.

The justices on Monday rejected that appeal and affirmed the lower court’s decision that found the legislative districts violated the Constitution. Notably, the Supreme Court, in a related ruling, scrapped the special election order and the related remedies.

Instead, the justices told the lower court to go back to the drawing board and use the proper analysis for deciding how to best cure the racially drawn districts — which may or may not include a new round of elections later this year.”

“Although this Court has never addressed whether or when a special election may be a proper remedy for a racial gerrymander,” the Supreme Court wrote in an unsigned ruling, “obvious considerations include the severity and nature of the particular constitutional violation, the extent of the likely disruption to the ordinary processes of governance if early elections are imposed, and the need to act with proper judicial restraint when intruding on state sovereignty.”

Despite this ruling, which will invite more litigation, the governor of North Carolina and voting-rights advocates viewed the court’s pronouncement in a favorable light, and vowed to keep fighting.

“Whether the election is November 2018 or earlier, redrawing the districts is good for our democracy by leveling the playing field for free and fair elections,” Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, said in a statement. “The people should be able to choose their representatives in competitive districts instead of the representatives being able to choose the people in lopsided, partisan districts.”

“We think there is still time to implement special elections in the impacted districts, and we will do everything we can to make sure that happens,” Anita Earls, executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which represents the plaintiffs in this challenge, said in a statement. “Many North Carolinians have been participating in unfair elections in racially gerrymandered districts for far too long. It’s time to fix this problem.”


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