The Supreme Court struck down two congressional district maps in North Carolina Monday, holding that the state had engaged in an unconstitutional gerrymander, reports CNN. The court found that race was a factor in the way state lawmakers drew congressional maps after the 2010 Census in order to maximize Republicans’ advantage.
The ruling is a victory for black North Carolina voters who argued that the state drew boundaries that packed African-Americans in districts that already had a high percentage of African-Americans, thus diluting their presence in other districts.
The Supreme Court voted 8-0 to strike down the District 1 map, and 5-3 to strike down the District 12 map.
The 5-3 ruling was written by Justice Elena Kagan, who said the 1st district “produced boundaries amplifying divisions between blacks and whites,” while in the 12th, “race, not politics, accounted for the district’s reconfiguration.”
Justice Clarence Thomas joined the court’s four liberal justices in striking down the state’s maps. Justice Samuel Alito dissented on the 12th district, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy. They agreed with state officials that the district was drawn to help Republicans, not to disenfranchise black voters.
“Partisan gerrymandering is always unsavory, but that is not the issue here,” Alito wrote. “The issue is whether District 12 was drawn predominantly because of race. The record shows that it was not.”
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 calls for states to draw districts enabling African Americans to elect their chosen representatives, so that black voters won’t be spread too thinly across district lines.
Two decades ago, Democrats used the law to demand so-called “majority-minority” districts. Since Republicans took over many state legislatures in 2010, they have drawn districts with what African American and Democratic critics claim are more blacks than necessary, in order to keep surrounding districts whiter — and more Republican.
Newly-appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch took no part in the vote, according to CNN.