Voting rights

North Carolina gerrymandering is racist, Supreme Court rules again

The Supreme Court just ruled again that North Carolina draws racist legislative districts.

In the third ruling about voting rights in North Carolina in the past month, the nine justices on Monday upheld the ruling of a lower court that the state racially gerrymandered 28 districts — nine state Senate and 19 state House, all adopted in 2011 by a Republican-controlled Legislature.

The lower court must now determine whether the state should hold a special election in all 28 districts this fall, which would cut the terms of their legislators short. In January, the Supreme Court had stayed the lower court’s November call for a special election while the justices considered an appeal from state legislators.

The Supreme Court’s unsigned summary opinion, with no noted dissents, didn’t elaborate on the justices’ reasoning to uphold the ruling of the lower court. Monday’s order, however, considered essentially the same questions as a case last month, in which the Supreme Court decided that North Carolina lawmakers relied too heavily on race in drawing two congressional districts. Monday’s order determined that the state had done the same with state General Assembly districts.

The Supreme Court, however, left the decision to host a special election in the hands of the lower court. “While special elections have costs,” they “pale in comparison to the costs to voters of a racial gerrymander,” a federal panel of judges in North Carolina wrote in November.

But that reasoning, the Supreme Court’s unsigned opinion argues, “would appear to justify a special election in every racial gerrymandering case — a result clearly at odds with our demand for careful case-specific analysis.”

The lower court now has a tough decision on its hands.

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