WASHINGTON The U.S. Supreme Courtroom on Wednesday informed a decrease court docket in a voting rights case to reassess whether or not Virginia’s Republican-led legislature unlawfully tried to dilute the clout of black voters when it drew a sequence of state legislative districts.
A gaggle of voters who filed the authorized problem stated the lawmakers improperly thought of race as an element when mapping boundaries of state Home of Delegates voting districts. A federal district court docket in 2015 upheld 12 districts, however the justices directed a three-judge panel of the decrease court docket to take a recent have a look at the propriety of 11 of these.
The case is considered one of numerous lawsuits accusing Republicans of taking steps on the state stage to disenfranchise black and different minority voters who are likely to again Democratic candidates.
The voters who introduced the lawsuit accused Republicans of packing black voters into sure districts to decrease their voting energy and make surrounding districts extra white and extra more likely to assist Republicans.
The eight-member court docket was unanimous in ordering the additional overview of the 11 districts within the opinion written by conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy, and voted 7-1 to uphold the opposite district, with conservative Justice Clarence Thomas asserting that the 12th district shouldn’t have been upheld.
Kennedy wrote that the decrease court docket didn’t sufficiently analyze the consideration of race throughout the redistricting course of.
The decrease court docket had stated it wanted to have a look at race provided that the district in query was not drawn based mostly on “conventional redistricting ideas.” The excessive court docket faulted that method, saying commonly drawn map doesn’t inform the total story.
“But when race for its personal sake is the overriding cause for selecting one map over others, race should predominate,” Kennedy wrote.
“For these causes, a battle or inconsistency between the enacted plan and conventional redistricting standards just isn’t a threshold requirement or a compulsory precondition to ensure that a challenger to ascertain a declare of racial gerrymandering,” he added.
Gerrymandering refers to manipulating the boundaries of a voting district in an effort to favor a selected celebration.
The court docket sidestepped the difficulty of whether or not the 11 districts had been drawn by Republicans in a manner that violated the voters’ rights below the 14th Modification of the U.S. Structure, which requires that state legislature districts be drawn based mostly on inhabitants.
At difficulty was the state legislative map drawn by Republicans after the 2010 census.
Democrats have accused Republicans in Virginia and different states of crafting such legislative maps in a manner that crams black and different minority voters into sure districts in an effort to cut back their general sway within the state.
Race may be thought of in redrawing boundaries of voting districts solely in sure cases, comparable to when states are looking for to adjust to the federal Voting Rights Act. That legislation protects minority voters and was enacted to deal with a historical past of racial discrimination in voting, particularly in southern states.
In 2015, the Supreme Courtroom dominated 5-Four to throw out a decrease court docket’s choice upholding a Republican-backed state legislature redistricting plan in Alabama that crammed black voters into sure districts in a manner critics claimed lessened their affect on the polls.
The Supreme Courtroom has by no means stated redistricting can’t be based mostly on nakedly partisan goals like maximizing one celebration’s election probabilities.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Enhancing by Will Dunham)