US Supreme Court Blocks Racially Gerrymandered Redistricting Plan

March 26, 2016

Yesterday’s U.S. Supreme Court opinion in the Alabama redistricting case supports the argument that the North Carolina State Conference of Branches of the NAACP has been making against North Carolina’s racially gerrymandered districts since they were first proposed in 2011. The Court held that packing black voters to meet a specific racial quota is constitutionally suspect, as was done in Alabama and in North Carolina. The Court remanded the case to the lower court for application of strict scrutiny. “The principles of law announced by the Court yesterday apply with equal force to North Carolina, mandating a reversal of the redistricting plans adopted here,” said Reverend Dr. William J. Barber, II. 

When the North Carolina redistricting proposal was introduced and enacted, the NC NAACP, through its lawyers and partners, provided legislators with legal opinions which track yesterday's Supreme Court decision. "As a result, they knew or should have known that their redistricting proposal violated the Voting Rights Act and the federal constitution," said Irving Joyner, NC NAACP Legal Redress Chair and Professor at NCCU School of Law. "Despite this information, these legislators chose to ignore the law, as it existed at that point, for the sole purpose of undermining the political voice of African-Americans and other racial minorities. Their redistricting plans, which involved the State Senate, House of Representatives, and Congress, were a part of the same national political agenda and strategy which extremist legislators have sought to impose in other States as occurred in North Carolina and Alabama. The imposition of this extremist agenda has resulted in the illegal elections of legislative officials who have eagerly sought to impose other extremists political policies upon North Carolina citizens. The NC NAACP will continue to fight against these actions in the courts, the legislative parlors and in the streets."

Rev. Dr. Barber also explained that “this opinion in the Alabama case is a vindication for all of us who have been saying for a long time that divisive racial gerrymandering, which seeks to isolate black voters and destroy effective cross-racial coalitions, is unconstitutional.” 

Even the dissenting Justices acknowledged in the opinion that “[r]acial gerrymanderingstrikes at the heart of our democratic process, undermining the electorate’s confidence in its government as representative of a cohesive body politic in which all citizens are equal before the law.”  Indeed, not a single Justice endorsed what the State of Alabama did in this case.  

The Supreme Court also held that splitting precincts and dividing communities of interest are indicators that race predominated in the redistricting process.  The unjust North Carolina redistricting plans in place now divide more precincts than any plans in the state’s history.

The North Carolina NAACP’s petition for certiorari seeking review of the North Carolina redistricting plans is captioned Dickson v. Rucho, Case No. 14-839, and is scheduled to be conferenced by the Court on April 17, 2015.

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