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In 'Severe Blow' to Voting Rights, Supreme Court Preserves GOP Gerrymanders in Texas and North Carolina

"We must end gerrymandering to ensure all voters have a voice in our democracy."

Demonstrators gather outside of the Supreme Court during oral arguments in Gill v. Whitford last October. (Photo: Olivier Douliery/Getty Images)

In a victory for "GOP racial gerrymanders everywhere" and a significant loss for voting rights, the Supreme Court's conservative majority on Monday overturned a lower court ruling and revived electoral districts drawn by Texas Republicans that many experts say are blatantly designed to discriminate against minorities.

"After years of litigation and undeniable proof of intentional discrimination, minority voters in Texas—despite constituting a majority of the population within the state—will continue to be underrepresented in the political process."
—Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor
Compounding what has already been a rough several days for activists and legal experts working to combat gerrymandering nationwide, the Supreme Court also decided to send a major North Carolina partisan gerrymandering case back to a lower court, leaving intact congressional maps that rights groups argue were drawn to discriminate against Democratic voters.

Common Cause—an advocacy organization that is one of the main plaintiffs in the North Carolina case—expressed dismay at both of the high court's rulings on Monday but vowed to continue fighting for the voting rights of all Americans.

"Voting rights in Texas were dealt a severe blow today by the U.S. Supreme Court as the Roberts Court upheld the legislature's extreme racial gerrymander that robbed hundreds of thousands of minority residents of a voice in Austin," Anthony Gutierrez, executive director of Common Cause Texas, said in a statement following the court's 5-4 ruling.

Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, added, "We must end gerrymandering to ensure all voters have a voice in our democracy."

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The Supreme Court's decision to allow the North Carolina and Texas gerrymanders to stand comes on the fifth anniversary of the court's infamous 2013 Shelby County v. Holder ruling, which gutted key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and opened the door to the GOP's aggressive, nationwide effort to suppress the minority vote.

In her dissent against the conservative majority's ruling in the Texas case on Monday, Justice Sonia Sotomayor argued that the court's decision "goes out of its way to permit the state of Texas to use maps that the three-judge district court unanimously found were adopted for the purpose of preserving the racial discrimination that tainted its previous maps."

"After years of litigation and undeniable proof of intentional discrimination, minority voters in Texas—despite constituting a majority of the population within the state—will continue to be underrepresented in the political process," Sotomayor concluded. "Our democracy rests on the ability of all individuals, regardless of race, income, or status, to exercise their right to vote. Because our duty is to safeguard that fundamental right, I dissent."

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