The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling Monday on two of North Carolina’s Congressional districts that ultimately will have no immediate effect in the state as the two districts have already been redrawn – but it keeps alive the issue of how to draw electoral maps.
The two districts, District 1 and District 12, were redrawn in compliance with a court order before the Presidential election last year. A second Congressional primary was held under the new maps, as well as the general election, but the appeal was still heard in the case.
The court ruled that the state’s justifications of redrawing the districts with a true minority-majority district, a district where more than half of the voting age population is made up of a minority group, went too far and a majority of 50 percent plus one person was not necessary for African-Americans to elect the representative of their choice.
The African-American voting population of District 1 was increased from 48.6 percent under the Democrats’ map to 52.7 percent, and District 12 was increased from 43.8 percent to 50.7 percent, which the courts ruled as excessive.
While the ruling doesn’t affect North Carolina immediately, it could have long-term implications.
The court ruled unanimously against the state on District 1 and ruled 5-3 against the state on District 12.
The newly drawn Congressional maps, which legislative leaders say were drawn without taking race into consideration at all, even to comply with the Voting Rights Act, have already been challenged in court.
Also in the mix is the court’s blocking of a lower court ruling that would have the state redraw 28 state legislative districts and hold new elections.
A lower court ruled that the legislative districts were also illegal racial gerrymanders and ordered them redrawn and that new elections be held, but the court blocked the order, although it has not ruled on the issue yet.
A spokeswoman for Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) Amy Auth, issued a statement on Monday saying, “We have the utmost respect for the Supreme Court, but it is challenging for our lawmakers to draw congressional districts that the courts will accept when the courts regularly change the rules state legislatures must follow when drawing them – an important point the dissenting opinion [written by Justice Samuel Alito] noted: ‘A precedent of this Court should not be treated like a disposable household item – say, a paper plate or napkin – to be used once and then tossed in the trash. But that is what the Court does today in its decision regarding North Carolina’s 12th Congressional District: The Court junks a rule adopted in a prior, remarkably similar challenge to this very same congressional district.’ In 2016, North Carolina drew a new compact Congressional map without considering race, and voters should know the Congressional representatives elected under that map last November will continue to serve their current districts.”
The House Rules Chair Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) responded to the decision b releasing a statement saying, “North Carolina’s congressional maps – despite being approved by President Obama’s Justice Department – have already been redrawn and voted in to elect new federal representatives statewide. While we prefer consistent rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court over the shifting legal positions criticized by Justice Alito in his dissent, we are satisfied today’s decision brings certainty to North Carolina voters that the current congressional districts (drawn in 2016) will remain in place for upcoming elections.”
The effect of this ruling, and similar cases, on the 2018 elections remains unclear.