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"This is a watershed moment in the fight to end racial gerrymandering," said National Democratic Redistricting Committee Chairman Eric Holder(Photo: justgrimes/flickr/cc)

Supreme Court Ruling Smacks Down North Carolina's Racial Gerrymandering

'Holy cow this is a big deal,' says one observer

Andrea Germanos

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled (pdf) Monday that race predominated the Republican redrawing of two of North Carolina's congressional districts.

"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. "North Carolina's maps were among the worst racial gerrymanders in the nation."

The opinion was written by Justice Elena Kagan, with conservative Justice Clarence Thomas joining the other liberal justices in the majority.

Their decision affirms a lower court's ruling that found that the redrawing of the 1st and 12th Congressional Districts was "skillful mapmaking" that left " traditional redistricting principles [...] subordinated to race." Bloomberg writes:

The contested districts were both held by black Democrats. Critics said the goal was to dilute minority voting strength outside of those two districts and preserve the power of neighboring white Republicans.

"In affirming the trial court's decision," says the Brennan Center for Justice, "the Court rebuffed North Carolina’s attempt to erect formalistic doctrinal barriers to racial gerrymandering claims, like its effort to have the question of intent turn on things like the shape of districts or whether towns or precincts were split."

Doug Clark explains at the Greensboro News & Record:

When challenged, the legislature admitted it was trying to seek a partisan advantage rather than acting out of any racial discrimination. Pushing more Democrats into the 1st and 12th left adjoining districts with Republican advantages. Partisan gerrymandering has long been legally acceptable.

Kagan called out the pretense. There's so much overlap between race and party that they aren't legally distinguishable.

Of the ruling, Rick Hasen writes a his Electionlaw blog: "Holy cow this is a big deal." He continues:

It means that race and party are not really discrete categories and that discriminating on the basis of party in places of conjoined polarization is equivalent, at least sometimes, to making race the predominant factor in redistricting. This will lead to many more successful racial gerrymandering cases in the American South and elsewhere, and allow these cases to substitute for (so far unsuccessful) partisan gerrymandering claims involving some of these districts. (Why Justice Thomas went along with all of this is a mystery to me. He joined in the opinion, and his separate opinion expresses no disagreement with these footnotes.)

According to Holder, "Today's ruling sends a stark message to legislatures and governors around the country: Racial gerrymandering is illegal and will be struck down in a court of law."

It's also "a critical decision as communities prepare for the 2020 redistricting cycle, where states would still be able to purposely create legitimate majority-minority districts, consistent with this opinion," said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.


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WHO, South Africa Urge Nations to Lift 'Naive' Omicron Travel Bans

"The only thing the prohibition on travel will do is to further damage the economies of the affected countries and undermine their ability to respond to, and recover from, the pandemic."

Brett Wilkins ·


EU Joins Rights Group in Condemning Israel's 'Day of Destruction' of Palestinian Homes

"Demolitions are illegal under international law and significantly undermine the prospects for peace."

Brett Wilkins ·


GOP 'Silence Speaks Volumes,' Says Ilhan Omar as Boebert's Bigotry Goes Unpunished

"Normalizing this bigotry not only endangers my life but the lives of all Muslims. Anti-Muslim bigotry has no place in Congress."

Brett Wilkins ·


Africans Should Be 'Applauded, Not Punished,' Say Advocates Amid Omicron Travel Ban

"What is going on right now is inevitable," said African Union Vaccine Delivery Alliance co-chair Dr. Ayoade Alakija. "It's a result of the world's failure to vaccinate in an equitable, urgent, and speedy manner."

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Biden Drilling Report Blasted as 'Shocking Capitulation to the Needs of Corporate Polluters'

"Greenlighting more fossil fuel extraction, then pretending it's OK by nudging up royalty rates, is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic," said one campaigner.

Jessica Corbett ·

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