Supreme Court Sides with States in Gerrymandering Cases


The Supreme Court, in two closely watched cases, allowed gerrymandered district maps to stand in Texas and North Carolina meaning both sets of maps will most certainly be used in the midterm elections.

The Court allowed three district maps to stand in Texas, but struck a fourth down. Critics had argued the maps discriminated against minorities.

In North Carolina, it reversed a lower court opinion that had voided district maps there on the basis of partisanship.

The Texas case was a split 5-4 decision along ideological lines.

Texas had put into effect district maps that had been ordered by lower courts in earlier stages of the court battle. But the plaintiffs, a variety of voting-rights groups, sued saying the state government had only accepted the maps to head-off further lawsuits.

Justice Samuel Alito, in delivering the opinion for the majority, wrote it was up to the plaintiffs to prove the Texas State Legislature acted with bad faith, and that they had failed to do so.

“But when all the relevant evidence in the record is taken into account, it is plainly insufficient to prove that the 2013 Legislature acted in bad faith and engaged in intentional discrimination,” he wrote. “There is thus no need for any further prolongation of this already protracted litigation.”

Alito was joined in his opinion by Justices Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas and the newest member of the Court (and first Trump appointee), Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Justice Sotomayor, filing a dissent, said the majority failed to bar Texas from using maps that were adopted for the purpose of preserving racial discrimination in the drawing of congressional maps.

“The Court today does great damage to that right of equal opportunity. Not because it denies the existence of that right, but because it refuses its enforcement. The Court intervenes when no intervention is authorized and blinds itself to the overwhelming factual record below. It does all of this to allow Texas to use electoral maps that, in design and effect, burden the rights of minority voters to exercise that most precious right,” she wrote.

“Because our duty is to safeguard that fundamental right, I dissent,” she added.

Sotomayor was joined in her dissent by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer and Kagan.

In an unsigned order, the Court set aside an opinion by a lower court that had voided congressional maps in North Carolina as unconstitutional. The Supreme Court told the lower court to re-analyze the case in light of a recent decision regarding a gerrymandering case in Wisconsin.

In that case, the Supreme Court found the plaintiffs lacked standing because they failed to prove “concrete and particularized” injury that demonstrated their right to vote had been infringed upon.

The decision in that case was unanimous, 9-0.

The decisions were the latest in a string of consequential decisions the High Court handed down this week. On Monday, the Court decided to uphold President Trump’s travel ban against immigrants from eight, mostly majority-Muslim countries.

Photo by Kumar Appaiah via Flickr

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