The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that North Carolina placed too much of an emphasis on race when two congressional districts were created in 2011. The move upholds a lower court decision from February.
In its decision, the high court said too many African-Americans were placed in those two Democratic districts in an improper effort to dilute their political strength elsewhere in the state and protect Republican congressional seats.
“The North Carolina Republican legislature tried to rig congressional elections by drawing unconstitutional districts that discriminated against African-Americans and that’s wrong,” said Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who took office in January.
The state had argued it was acting in accordance with the Voting Rights Act, but Justice Elena Kagan, in writing for the majority, said North Carolina did not offer compelling reasons to justify its reliance on race in either district. She said the state’s arguments do not “withstand strict scrutiny.” New U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch was not on the bench when the court heard arguments in the case last year and did not participate in the decision.
The court ruled unanimously in the case of one of the districts, located in the northeastern part of the state. Kagan said the court will not “approve a racial gerrymander whose necessity is supported by no evidence.”
The court’s decision on the other district was split 5-3, with three conservative justices dissenting.
The civil rights group the NAACP had accused Republicans of packing African-American voters into what the organization described as “apartheid voting districts” to weaken their clout.