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Supreme Court Sides With Republicans Over South Carolina Voting Map

The case concerned a constitutional puzzle: how to distinguish the roles of race and partisanship in drawing voting maps when Black voters overwhelmingly favor Democrats.

The Supreme Court cleared the way on Thursday for South Carolina to keep using a congressional map that a lower court had deemed an unconstitutional racial gerrymander that resulted in the "bleaching of African American voters" from a district.

The conservative majority, by a 6-to-3 vote, returned the case to the lower court, handing a victory to Republicans by allowing them to maintain boundaries that helped make the district in question a party stronghold.

The immediate effect of the ruling will be limited, as the court's delay in ruling had already ensured that this year's elections would take place under the contested map. But the majority opinion, written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., will have an impact beyond South Carolina in the years to come, said Richard L. Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

"Justice Alito for a court majority has once again come up with a legal framework that makes it easier for Republican states to engage in redistricting to help white Republicans maximize their political power," Professor Hasen said.

The ruling was the latest in a series of closely divided decisions on elections that are a distinctive element of the work of the court led by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., including ones that have amplified the role of money in politics, made it easier to restrict voting and exempted partisan gerrymandering from review in federal court.

The trend is not entirely uniform, as the court ruled last year that Alabama lawmakers had diluted the power of Black voters in drawing a congressional voting map. But the overall pattern has been to limit the oversight of elections by Congress and the federal courts, often in ways that have benefited Republicans.

In the case decided Thursday, Alexander v. South Carolina State Conference of the N.A.A.C.P., No. 22-807, the court's majority held that courts must generally credit lawmakers' assertions that their goal in redistricting was partisan, which is permissible, rather than based on race, which is not. "We start with a presumption that the legislature acted in good faith," Justice Alito wrote.

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by Anonymousreply 5May 25, 2024 8:15 PM


Quoting earlier decisions, he wrote that courts should avoid grave accusations against state lawmakers.

"When a federal court finds that race drove a legislature's districting decisions," he wrote, "it is declaring that the legislature engaged in 'offensive and demeaning' conduct that 'bears an uncomfortable resemblance to political apartheid.' We should not be quick to hurl such accusations at the political branches."

In dissent, Justice Elena Kagan accused the majority of erecting hurdles to make it all but impossible to challenge voting maps as racial gerrymanders.

"The proper response to this case is not to throw up novel roadblocks enabling South Carolina to continue dividing citizens along racial lines," she wrote, in an opinion joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson. "It is to respect the plausible — no, the more than plausible — findings of the district court that the state engaged in race-based districting. And to tell the state that it must redraw" the challenged district, "this time without targeting African-American citizens."

Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas, Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett joined Justice Alito's majority opinion. In a concurring opinion, Justice Thomas said he would have gone further, getting out of the business of assessing claims of racial gerrymandering entirely.

"The court has no power to decide these types of claims," he wrote. "Drawing political districts is a task for politicians, not federal judges. There are no judicially manageable standards for resolving claims about districting, and, regardless, the Constitution commits those issues exclusively to the political branches."

A unanimous three-judge panel of the Federal District Court in Columbia, S.C., ruled in early 2023 that the state's First Congressional District, drawn after the 2020 census, violated the Constitution by making race the predominant factor.

The panel put its decision on hold while Republican lawmakers appealed to the Supreme Court, and the parties asked the justices to render a decision by Jan. 1. After that deadline passed, the panel said in March that the 2024 election would have to take place under the map it had rejected as unconstitutional.

"With the primary election procedures rapidly approaching, the appeal before the Supreme Court still pending and no remedial plan in place," the panel wrote, "the ideal must bend to the practical."

In effect, the Supreme Court's inaction had decided the case for the current election cycle.

by Anonymousreply 1May 23, 2024 6:55 PM

So this is what the increase of black men for Trump are voting for. Sounds about right.

by Anonymousreply 2May 23, 2024 6:58 PM

We should ask Canada to draw all the district maps.

Both parties gerrymander to give an advantage to their own party.

Some places it's Republicans. Other places it's Democrats.

The only fair way is to have the maps drawn by neither party.

I choose the Canadians.

by Anonymousreply 3May 23, 2024 7:39 PM

Of course they did. They are acting like the Repuke partisan hacks that they are. When you have Alito flying MAGA flags from his home AND beach house, what do we expect?

by Anonymousreply 4May 23, 2024 7:52 PM

One side does it a LOT more than the other R3. MAGA Repugs have no shame.

by Anonymousreply 5May 25, 2024 8:15 PM
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