Supreme Court Upholds South Carolina Congressional Map That Diluted Black Suffrage


Supreme Court Republican-leaning South Carolina supported Congress The map Thursday rejected an argument by civil rights groups that lawmakers used race as a proxy to boost the GOP’s chances.

But the high court also said civil rights groups that challenged the maps could pursue part of their demand, which would delay the battle for districts for months.

A federal court already ruled in March that South Carolina can use a contested map in this year’s election as the state election deadline approaches.

The result was 6-3 along conservative-liberal lines.

“There is little circumstantial evidence to show that race, not independent preferences, drove the redistricting process, and none of the expert reports presented by the challengers provide significant support for their position,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the majority opinion.

The Supreme Court has previously said it will not review partisan gerrymanders — that is, maps that favor one party over another. However, in creating those advantages, mapmakers are prohibited from relying primarily on race as they move voters from one district to another. The challenge is that race and party affiliation are sometimes aligned, so it’s hard to separate one from the other.

“The dispute between the Democratic and Republican nominees in this case is technical but has massive legal ramifications,” said Steve Vladek, a CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law. “Here, the conservative justices effectively shifted their judgment to the district court about what actually happened — which may have consequences beyond the specific context of racism cases.”

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Liberal Justice Elena Kagan, joined by two other liberals, wrote in a lengthy dissent that argued the majority would “encourage state lawmakers and mapmakers to use race as a proxy to achieve partisan ends.”

“Go right, this Court is telling the states today. “Continue even if you have no recognized justification for using race, such as complying with laws guaranteeing equal voting rights,” Kagan wrote. “Even if you use race as a shortcut to make partisan gains — to elect more Republicans in one case and more Democrats in another — go ahead (better).”

He continued: “Especially in an electoral field where ‘the ugliest forms of widespread racial discrimination’ have long reigned supreme, we must demand better — for ourselves, for our political representatives, and for all of this Court.”

Thomas says the courts should stop reviewing gerrymandering claims

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a concurrence questioning whether federal courts should police racists in the first place.

It would be a dramatic departure from the way federal courts have reviewed Redistricting claims for decades, which have made it more difficult for minority voters to challenge racists.

“In my view, the court lacks jurisdiction to adjudicate these types of claims,” ​​Thomas wrote.

“Drawing political districts is the job of politicians, not federal judges. “There are no judicially administrable standards for resolving claims about redistricting, and the Constitution leaves those issues exclusively to the political branches,” he wrote.

Thomas pointed to a 2019 Supreme Court ruling that ended federal judicial review of partisan gerrymanders and suggested the same logic of that opinion applies to racial profiling cases.

For both types of disputes, Thomas wrote, courts “require courts to resolve an issue—congressional districting—that is textually committed to Congress as a unified political field.”

“A system where only experts can find the existence of a constitutional injury is intolerable, and racial injury is not amenable to judicial determination,” he said.

The case over South Carolina’s maps is one of several high-profile redistricting cases to head to the Supreme Court following the 2020 census and the once-a-decade redrawing of congressional districts to account for changes in population. Last year, a 5-4 majority voted Alabama to redraw its congressional map after groups argued that it violated the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. A related redistricting case from Louisiana Still working its way through the federal courts.

Republicans currently hold a razor-thin majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and similar legal battles are the result It helps determine which party is in control Council when the new Congress convenes next year. In Alabama, new maps could get Democratic. New maps in Georgia and North Carolina, by contrast, preserve or improve the GOP’s chances.

In South Carolina, a troubled district was drawn in 2020 to benefit the GOP. The NAACP South Carolina State Convention and Taiwan Scott, a black voter, said the use of race dominated the decision-making process and that the state acted to deliberately dilute the power of black voters. A federal court agreed, calling the revised map “whiteout.”

Although Republicans were consistently elected in the coastal district from 1980 to 2016, a Democrat was elected in 2018 amid political turmoil.

Two years later, Republican Rep. Nancy Mays won the seat in a tight race. As state lawmakers begin considering new congressional maps in 2021, the Republican majority has sought to create a strong GOP tilt in the district. Republicans currently own it Six of the seven districts of the state.

After an eight-day trial involving 42 witnesses and 652 exhibits, A A three-judge district court panel Last year, a South Carolina map it said was an unconstitutional race-based gerrymander that violated the Equal Protection Clause because race was a major factor in the redistricting.

South Carolina Republicans, led by state Senate President Thomas Alexander, appealed to the Supreme Court early last year, arguing in part that the maps were drawn with politics — not race — in mind.

A recurring issue in the case is that the plaintiffs who challenged the map did not provide an alternative map to show why the new districts could achieve the same partisan goals without having a significant impact on race.

“We have repeatedly observed that this type of alternative mapping can go a long way in helping plaintiffs bridge racial and political divides,” Alito wrote. “An alternative map can perform the important task of distinguishing racial and political motivations when race and partisanship are closely intertwined.”

This story has been updated with additional details.

CNN’s Fredreka Schouten contributed to this report.

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