Supreme Court seems con­cerned over race in re­dis­trict­ing

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY MARK SHER­MAN

The U.S. Supreme Court on Mon­day seemed con­cerned that race may have played too large a role in the draw­ing of elec­toral dis­tricts in Vir­ginia, to the detri­ment of black vot­ers.

Sev­eral jus­tices hear­ing ar­gu­ments in the case sug­gested a lower court failed to ap­ply the cor­rect stan­dard when it up­held new bound­aries for 12 state leg­isla­tive dis­tricts.

The case is the first of two re­dis­trict­ing dis­putes the court is con­sid­er­ing. In the sec­ond case, the state of North Carolina is chal­leng­ing a lower court rul­ing that struck down two dis­tricts as un­con­sti­tu­tional be­cause they re­lied too heav­ily on race.

The claim made by black vot­ers in both states is that Repub­li­cans cre­ated dis­tricts with more black vot­ers than nec­es­sary, mak­ing neigh­bor­ing dis­tricts whiter and more solidly Repub­li­can.

Jus­tice Elena Ka­gan said it “de­fies be­lief” that the lower court in the Vir­ginia case re­quired all 12 dis­tricts to meet the same stan­dard of hav­ing a 55 per­cent black ma­jor­ity.

“That’s a prob­lem,” she told Paul Cle­ment, a lawyer rep­re­sent­ing the Vir­ginia State Board of Elec­tions.

Jus­tice An­thony Kennedy, who has been a swing vote in vot­ing rights cases, also said he had prob­lems with the lower court’s rea­son­ing in the Vir­ginia case.

But Jus­tice Samuel Al­ito said the law’s re­quire­ments are “very, very com­pli­cated” and won­dered if the jus­tices should be wary of invit­ing more lit­i­ga­tion ev­ery time a leg­is­la­ture re­draws dis­trict bound­aries.

Jus­tice Stephen Breyer said the lower court may not have used ex­actly the right stan­dard, but he won­dered if it mat­tered to the out­come.

Ar­gu­ing for the Vir­ginia chal­lengers, at­tor­ney Marc Elias said the lower court was wrong to use a “one size fits all” stan­dard re­gard­less of the dif­fer­ent vot­ing pat­terns and de­mo­graph­ics across the 12 dis­tricts.

The jus­tices fre­quently have con­sid­ered the in­ter­sec­tion of race and pol­i­tics.

In 2015, Jus­tice Kennedy joined the four more lib­eral jus­tices to or­der a re­view of Alabama leg­isla­tive dis­tricts. Jus­tice Breyer wrote for the court that the Alabama leg­is­la­ture and the fed­eral court that ruled on the plan had taken a “me­chan­i­cally nu­mer­i­cal” view, in­stead of try­ing to fig­ure out what per­cent­age of black vot­ers were needed to elect a can­di­date of their choice.

In 2013, Jus­tice Kennedy sided with more con­ser­va­tive jus­tices to ef­fec­tively block a key com­po­nent of the land­mark Vot­ing Rights Act that led to the elec­tion of blacks across the South.

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