Monday, July 22, 2024

Supreme Court calls for new North Carolina districts but no rush for special elections

U.S. Supreme Court Building. (Photo by Christina Haley)
U.S. Supreme Court Building. (Port City Photo/FILE PHOTO)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Supreme Court today affirmed that North Carolina’s state legislative districts were the result of “unconstitutional racial gerrymanders.” However, there will be no rush to redraw districts, shorten terms or hold new elections.

In the short brief filed by the Court on Monday, June 5, the justices decided without dissent to affirm the August 2016 ruling of the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. The case of North Carolina vs. Sandra Little Covington concerned the heated topic of gerrymandering; the Supreme Court ruled on North Carolina’s congressional districts recently, finding those districts were also unconstitutional (they have since been withdrawn).

The 2016 District Court ruling found that the new legislative districts drawn by the Republican-majority general assembly in 2011 used race as the “predominant factor,” but that none of the redistricting was “supported by a strong basis in evidence.”

While the Court agreed the 2011 legislative districts were deliberately drawn to shift African Americans into some districts – and out of others – they vacated other aspects of the District Court’s findings.

The District Court had called for new districts to be drawn up by the now-expired deadline of March 2017. It also called for any North Carolina legislator elected in 2016 to have their term shortened to a one-year period and for special elections to be held in the fall of 2017.

The District Court acknowledged the cost and disruption of these measures, but stated in its findings that, “while special elections have costs, those costs pale in comparison to the injury caused by allowing citizens to continue to be represents by legislators elected pursuant to a racial gerrymander.”

The Supreme Court struck down these parts of the lower court’s finding, arguing that it had “addressed the balances of equities in only the most cursory fashion.”

In short, the Court agreed that the 2011 redistricting was unconstitutional but demanded the lower court reconsider a more reasonable time-frame for new districts and elections.

Related Articles