losangelesnewstoday.com March 22, 2018

High court ruling may give voter rights groups a strong tool

24 May 2017, 05:24 | Violet Powell

"The North Carolina Republican legislature tried to rig congressional elections by drawing unconstitutional districts that discriminated against African-Americans and that's wrong", said North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat took office in January.

Hans von Spakovsky of the right-wing Heritage Foundation disagreed with the Supreme Court's ruling, arguing that it exacerbates "the confused state of the law".

But the justices declared North Carolina had relied too heavily on race in their efforts to "reshuffle", in the words of Justice Elena Kagan, voters from one district to another. The Supreme Court affirmed that ruling. This decision will make it easier to challenge GOP racial gerrymanders elsewhere, which is significant because Republicans in almost every Southern state could have drawn another congressional district that would elect black or Latino voters's candidate of choice.

Both districts have since been redrawn. Republican lawmakers have repeated argued from the beginning that District 12 was drawn to comply with the Voting Rights Act.

RICHARD HASEN: This case is a big deal because it's going to make it much easier for voting rights plaintiffs, especially in the American South, to challenge gerrymanders that are done by Republican legislatures. Democrats used the law twenty years ago to create "majority-minority" districts.

North Carolina prevailed in state court, where a trial judge rejected a claim from several civil rights groups that the districts were unlawfully gerrymandered.

Eric Holder, who was US attorney general under President Barack Obama and now heads the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, a group backing Democrats in redistricting fights, welcomed the decision.

The Supreme Court has also never said legislative districts can not be mapped based on plainly partisan aims like maximizing one party's election chances. For this reason, although CD 12 was a crossover district in North Carolina's previous districting plan, there is no guarantee that it will be such a district in any future plan.

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Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and Samuel A. Alito Jr. objected.

"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".

In a rare move, Justice Clarence Thomas, a member of the court's conservative wing, sided with Kagan and the court's more liberal members - Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor. Justice Neil Gorsuch did not take part in the case.

Third, the court's ruling on CD 12 is important because the court's view of racial predominance is just as likely to disrupt a gerrymander that favors Democrats as one that favors Republicans. Lawmakers are required to consider race when drawing legislative lines so that minorities have a chance to elect candidates of their choice when the numbers are there.

Regardless of the outcome of the challenges to those districts, this long, costly and confusing process should suggest a remedy that many in this state have been pursuing for some time. The problem with that reasoning - as the court unanimously concluded - was that black voters had already been electing their candidate of choice in CD 1.

In a statement to local news outlet WRAL, North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes complained of what he sees as continually changing rules on redistricting: "Our position continues to be the same as the Obama Justice Department on this issue, which pre-cleared these districts as fair and legal".

President Donald Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in rebuffing a subpoena Monday in the investigation into Russia's election meddling.

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