This Could Be Gerrymandering

The Supreme Court gave a second chance to opponents of North Carolina's redistricting plan.

The Supreme Court Gives a Second Chance to Opponents of North Carolina’s Redistricting Plan

The Supreme Court gave good news to opponents of North Carolina’s gerrymandered redistricting map — and supporters of representative government! — yesterday. The high court ordered that North Carolina take another look at a challenge to the state’s election map. In December, the North Carolina Supreme Court upheld a redistricting map drawn by the Republican legislature that packs African-American voters into a few districts, diluting the overall power of their vote. The Supreme Court did not issue a formal decision on the case, but the justices ordered the state supreme court to reexamine the case, which is an important first step in ensuring that the state’s election maps are fairly considered.

African American voters in North Carolina saw a drastic change in representation after the 2010 census, when the map in question was drawn. Before 2011, North Carolina had ten majority black state House districts. After, the number more than doubled to 23. Concentrating black voters into a handful of districts dilutes the group’s voting strength by increasing the proportion of white voters in other districts. For example, in 2012, while more than half of North Carolina voters voted for Democratic representation in the U.S. House of Representatives, Republicans filled about 70 percent of the seats.

Much controversy surrounds the drawing of North Carolina’s redistricting maps. Through a project called the Redistricting Majority Project, the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), worked with many states, including North Carolina, to draw election maps that would rig the game in their favor.

The RSLC was looking to influence the outcome of these gerrymandered maps in other ways as well. The group was by far the largest contributor in the last two North Carolina Supreme Court races, which both took place after this court case was filed and while the appeal was pending, calling into question the partiality of the court’s decision. The Center for American Progress looks deeper into the influence of the RSLC and other conservative groups on judicial races and looks at some of the return on investments these groups are getting.

Yesterday’s decision represents some momentum for advocates of good government. It built off of a similar ruling on Alabama’s election map that the court handed down in March. The Alabama decision asked a lower court to consider whether concentrating minority voters into a handful of districts could violate the Voting Rights Act by limiting the number of districts in which minorities could influence elections. These two orders from the Supreme Court are a good sign that the highest court is taking a harder look at racial gerrymandering.

BOTTOM LINE: The Supreme Court’s order to revive the challenge to North Carolina’s unfair election map is a step in the right direction. Fixing the state’s election map is just one of many steps that will need to be taken to ensure that conservatives cannot continue stacking the deck in their favor by suppressing the voice of others.

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