Biz-novosti

High court's good call on districts


The Supreme Court ruled Monday that North Carolina's Republican-controlled legislature relied on racial gerrymandering when drawing the state's congressional districts, a decision that could make it easier to challenge other state redistricting plans.

The fight over North Carolina districts - the First and Twelfth Congressional districts - was earlier wage in both state and federal court. It added more African Americans to two districts that already had significant black populations and had consistently elected the representatives-all Democrats-favored by most black voters since the 1990s. As Justice Elena Kagan wrote in the majority opinion, "the sorting of voters on the grounds of their race remains suspect even if race is meant to function as a proxy for other (including political) characteristics". The court ruled that two districts in North Carolina are unconstitutional because they intentionally gerrymandered an inordinate percentage of African-Americans into the districts in order to diminish minority voting power in other districts. In 2010, when Republicans took control over many state legislatures, they used the opportunity to redraw districts.

"A precedent of this court should not be treated like a disposable household item-say a paper plate or a napkin-to be used once and then tossed in the trash", Alito wrote.

Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, and Chief Justice John Roberts dissented on the 12 district lines. As of this writing, the most newsworthy of the lot is the case about how congressional district lines are drawn in North Carolina.

In a 5-3 ruling, the justices affirmed the decision of a lower court.

The three justices argued that previous court rulings have required those challenging the legality of voting districts offer an alternative map, but the majority deemed the lack of an alternative in this case inconsequential. Democrats claim they redrew the lines to keep more districts whiter and Republican while making a few districts have more blacks than necessary.

In District 1, the legislature increased black voting age population from 47.6 percent to 52.65 percent.

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Note that the majority included the court's four center-left jurists - Kagan, Sotomayor, Ginsburg, and Breyer - who were unexpectedly joined in this decision by, of all people, Clarence Thomas. Partisan gerrymandering is a national problem.

Representatives for the Senate committee's Republican chairman, Richard Burr of North Carolina, and ranking Democrat, Mark Warner of Virginia, didn't immediately respond to calls and emails inquiring about the committee's next steps. That will require a future ruling in which the court holds that gerrymandering even in the absence of racial considerations violates the Constitution.

The Supreme Court in 2013 struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act in a ruling driven by its conservative justices.

In Sunday TV appearances, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers said they will press Comey in hearings as to whether he ever felt that Trump tried to interfere with his Federal Bureau of Investigation work.

Lewis and his fellow Republican lawmakers were so bold in declaring their partisan gerrymandering scheme because while various court rulings have made it clear that racial gerrymandering is unconstitutional, the US Supreme Court has not yet made a decisive ruling on the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering.

New challenges have been filed to the redrawn districts, this time claiming that politics played too much of a role in their creation. The court ruled that legislators packed African American voters into two districts, in violation of the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. The newest addition to the court, Justice Neil Gorsuch, did not participate in the case because he was not on the bench when arguments were heard.

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