Washington – Supreme Court isOn Wednesday, the lines of a congressional district in South Carolina found racial gerrymander unconstitutional in a case testing the entanglement of race and politics.
The justices will weigh in on a ruling by a three-judge district court panel in South Carolina, which found that state Republican lawmakers intentionally allowed the design of Congressional District 1 to drive the race.
The dispute arising out of the subsequent redelineation process is the latest to come before the High Court. But a closer look at the controversy involved The high court found it violated the Voting Rights Act, and a court battle involving a single district in South Carolina claims that race was misapplied during the redistricting process in violation of the Constitution’s equal protection clause.
“What makes this case interesting is that it’s the first claim of racism involving a predominantly white district, a claim that race was used to artificially suppress a district’s black population,” Nicholas Stephanopoulos, a law professor at Harvard University, told CBS News. . “In each of these cases, it’s a heavily minority district, and there’s demand [that] Race was used to elevate minorities.”
He continued, “At its core, this case is a racial or political case because the court mistakenly thinks that partisan gerrymandering is not a problem for policing, and partisanship ends up being a successful defense to claims of racism. The question is. Does motive dominate, is it racial or partisan?”
Located on the state’s southeast coast and anchored in Charleston County, voters in Congressional District 1 have elected Republicans to the House from 1980 to 2016. But in 2018, Democrat Joe Cunningham won. Republican Nancy Mays narrowly won the 2020 congressional elections.
During the redistricting process that began in 2021, when state lawmakers redrew South Carolina’s congressional voting map, GOP officials sought to give Congressional District 1 a strong Republican tilt. To do this, they moved 140,000 residents out of District 1 and into Congressional District 6, represented by longtime Democrat Rep. Jim Clyburn.
The map was enacted in January 2022, and Mays won re-election that November. But the NAACP and other civil rights groups challenged Congressional District 1’s lines as unconstitutionally racist. Following an eight-day hearing, a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court in South Carolina agreed with the map challengers and found that race was a major factor in the district’s drawing.
The panel concluded that GOP lawmakers targeted the 17% black voting age in Congressional District 1 and moved more than 30,000 blacks from their home district to Congressional District 6 to create a Republican tilt. A district court has blocked an election with GOP-drawn boundaries for Congressional District 1, though it has given the Legislature 30 days after the Supreme Court’s final decision to submit new lines.
South Carolina Republicans asked the Supreme Court in February to review the district court’s decision, arguing that the legislature acted in good faith and failed to uphold the presumption that race had not been divorced from politics.
GOP legislators have argued that drawing Congressional District 1 to adhere to traditional districting principles and seek to create a more safely Republican district. In 2019, the Supreme Court said the doors of federal courts were closed to claimsVoting lines are drawn to keep the party in power.
“Left unamended, states would be placed in an impossible bind by exposing the group to potential racial liability whenever they refuse to convert majority-white, moderate majority-Republican districts to majority-Democratic,” they told the Supreme Court. Filing. “The federal courts are called upon to micromanage political disputes in countless such districts across the country.
But civil rights groups urging the Supreme Court to uphold the panel’s decision argued that using race as a primary factor to rank voters unconstitutional, even if it was done for partisan gain, which state lawmakers failed to prove. plain error” with the judges’ factual findings.
“Just as an employer is not exempt from a hiring discrimination claim in one department because it has not discriminated in another, a legislature cannot sort thousands of voters in one district by race and avoid review based on traditional policies in other parts of the state.” A. They told the judges Filing.
Mechanisms to sort voters by race or politics make it difficult to separate race from politics when judges hear arguments, especially in states where voting is polarized.
“When South Carolina drew this district with a low black population, did it do so because of race or to try to draw a safe Republican district?” Stephanopoulos said the state will win if it convinces the Supreme Court that it engaged in partisan gerrymandering.
Justin Levitt, a law professor at Loyola Marymount University, likened improper focus on racing during redistricting to a driver who only looks at the speedometer and ignores traffic patterns, road conditions and other vehicles.
“If you’re so fixated on the speedometer that you ignore everyone else and just stare at the speedometer, you’re going to crash,” he told CBS News. “According to the charges proved in the trial court, South Carolina caused the accident by looking only at the speedometer.”
Levitt said he hopes the Supreme Court will make it harder for voters to challenge the use of race in drawing district lines, but the case is important because “when legislatures are single-mindedly focused, as demonstrated here, they harm the public interest.”
“The overall motivation is the Court’s skepticism that state governments should act on the basis of race,” he said. “They’re not saying that districts should be race-blind, but their comments elsewhere are a real skepticism about race driving the train. I don’t think they’ll back down from this kind of claim. The danger, as a practical matter, is that a state legislature will actually put minority constituencies in or out of their district without good reason. It is difficult for plaintiffs to prove that the districts are drawn.”
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