Monday the Supreme Court of the United States declared North Carolina’s congressional districts unconstitutional because legislators drew districts based solely on race. This is happening in many Southern states, however, the Supreme Court’s ruling is a warning sign that this is unacceptable. This also means districts drawn solely based on party affiliations will likely face consequences when considered by the Supreme Court on Thursday. Lastly, the Supreme Court’s decision reiterates how important it is to have an independent commission draw constitutional districts.
North Carolina’s Republican legislators unconstitutionally packed black voters into two congressional districts, making other districts whiter, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday. So why should you care?
1. Republican legislators around the South are doing the same thing to varying degrees to help preserve or boost their electoral gains. That’s helping drive polarization in Congress, because it produces districts that are extremely safe for either Democrats or Republicans. Representing homogenous districts of like-minded constituents, members of Congress have no incentive for compromise – or for anything other than tearing down the other party. Monday’s decision is a warning shot to states that racial gerrymandering may be ending soon.
2. The ruling appears to heighten the chances that two other sets of North Carolina maps will be struck down. Dozens of the state’s 170 legislative districts were drawn with the same race-conscious approach as the court rebuked. That case is on the Supreme Court’s docket for Thursday, so we could learn soon if that map will have to be redrawn and new elections held this year. If so, it could affect the makeup of the N.C. legislature.
Also, when a lower court threw out the congressional districts, the legislature drew a new set. That map is now being challenged for gerrymandering based on party, not race, and Monday’s ruling could give plaintiffs there a boost.
3. Finally, the Supreme Court’s decision makes the case, again and forcefully, that politicians, be they Democrats or Republicans, are incapable of drawing fair and impartial lines. North Carolina’s voters would be much better served if a bipartisan or nonpartisan independent commission did the work, as happens in some other states. That would produce a General Assembly and congressional delegation that more closely reflects, and so better represents, the closely divided partisan makeup of our purple state.