Supreme Court rejects Alabama gerrymandering decision

There's more than one way to dilute someone's voting voice:

The justices split 5-4 across ideological lines in ruling that a three-judge panel did not properly consider complaints that state officials illegally packed black voters into too few voting districts. Writing for the court, Justice Stephen Breyer said the lower court should have reviewed claims of racial gerrymandering on a district-by-district level, not just statewide.

“The Alabama and North Carolina redistricting cases involve different questions of law, and legislative leaders do not believe today’s Supreme Court decision impacts the North Carolina case,” Phil Berger, N.C. Senate president pro tempore, and Tim Moore, the N.C. House speaker, said in a joint statement.

Nice try, BergerMoore. The Justices' concerns in the Alabama case, and their subsequent dissatisfaction with the lower court's ruling, are both very pertinent to North Carolina's redistricting mess. Here's an excerpt (fat pdf) from our own Supreme Court's flawed opinion allowing the districts to stand:

Unlike redistricting
plans that have been faulted for setting arbitrary thresholds for Total Black Voting
Age Population, see, e.g., Page, 2014 WL 5019686, at *6 (citing and quoting Smith v.
Beasley, 946 F. Supp. 1174, 1207 (D.S.C.) (1996)), the target of fifty percent plus one
of the Total Black Voting Age Population chosen by North Carolina’s General
Assembly is consistent with the requirements of the first Gingles precondition.
Nevertheless, because section 2 limits the use of race in creating remedial districts
by allowing race to be considered only to the extent “reasonably necessary” for
compliance, the question arises whether the percentages of Total Black Voting Age
Population in each of North Carolina’s challenged districts are higher than
“reasonably necessary” to avoid the risk of vote dilution. See Vera, 517 U.S. at 979,
116 S. Ct. at 1961, 135 L. Ed. 2d at 269.
The Total Black Voting Age Population percentage ranges from a low of
50.45% to a high of 57.33% in the twenty-six districts in question. However, the
average Total Black Voting Age Population of the challenged districts is only
52.28%.
Twenty-one of the twenty-six districts have Total Black Voting Age
populations of less than 53%, and only two of these districts, Senate 28 and House
24, exceed 55% Total Black Voting Age Population. We are mindful that a host of
other factors were considered in addition to race, such as the Whole County
Provision of the Constitution of North Carolina, protection of incumbents, one
person, one-vote requirements and partisan considerations. As a result, we are
satisfied that these districts are sufficiently narrowly tailored. They do not classify
individuals based upon race to an extent greater than reasonably necessary to
comply with the VRA, while simultaneously taking into account traditional
districting principles.

Bolding mine. As you can see, the Court went out of its way to minimize the importance of overshooting the 50% +1 formula. Those excesses represent tens of thousands of black voters who were marginalized, whose votes would have been both valued and sought after in other districts. And who (of course) would have made some of those districts more competitive.

After reading much of the rest of this flawed NC Supreme Court decision, I am almost embarrassed to have the highest court in the land also take a look.

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