US Supreme Court Backs S. Carolina Republicans In Race-based Voting Map Fight – News18

WASHINGTON:The U.S. Supreme Court made it harder on Thursday to prove racial discrimination in electoral maps in a major ruling backing South Carolina Republicans who moved out 30,000 Black residents when they redrew a congressional district.

The 6-3 decision, with the conservative justices in the majority and liberal justices dissenting, reversed a lower court’s ruling that the map had violated the rights of Black voters under the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal protection under the law. The Supreme Court’s ruling was authored by conservative Justice Samuel Alito.

The liberal justices expressed alarm at the court’s decision to make it more difficult for legal challengers to prove that an electoral map racially discriminates in violation of the Constitution.

“What a message to send to state legislators and mapmakers” who often have incentives to use race to achieve partisan ends or to suppress the electoral influence of racial minorities, Justice Elena Kagan wrote in a dissent joined by the two other liberals. “Go right ahead, this court says to states today.”

The fight centered on the boundaries drawn in 2022 by the Republican-controlled state legislature for one of South Carolina’s seven U.S. House of Representatives districts. The new map increased the district’s share of white voters while reducing its share of Black voters, which the lower court called “bleaching.”

Alito wrote that there was “no direct evidence” that race predominated in the design of the district and that “circumstantial evidence falls far short of showing that race, not partisan preferences, drove the districting process.”

The Supreme Court sided with South Carolina Republicans who had argued that the district, which includes parts of Charleston along the Atlantic coast, was drawn to achieve partisan advantage. The Supreme Court in 2019 decided map-making for partisan gain was not reviewable by federal courts – unlike redistricting mainly motivated by race, which remains illegal.

The ruling found that the challengers – which included the NAACP civil rights group, the American Civil Liberties Union and Black voters – failed to prove that the redrawn district’s composition was chiefly motivated by race. Black voters tend to support Democratic candidates.

The lower court in March, because of the length of time it took the Supreme Court to act after hearing arguments in October, decided that the disputed map could be used in the Nov. 5 U.S. election that will decide which party controls the House.

Using this map could undercut Democratic chances of regaining a House majority after losing it two years ago. Republicans hold a 217-213 majority. Every competitive district could be crucial to the outcome, with legal battles over redistricting in various states still playing out.


A federal three-judge panel in January 2023 ruled that the map unlawfully sorted voters by race and deliberately split up Black neighborhoods in Charleston County in a “stark racial gerrymander.”

Gerrymandering is a practice involving the manipulation of the geographical boundaries of electoral districts to marginalize a certain set of voters and increase the influence of others. In this case, the state legislature was accused of racial gerrymandering to reduce the influence of Black voters.

The boundaries of legislative districts across the country are redrawn to reflect population changes measured by the census conducted by the U.S. government every decade. In most states, redistricting is done by the party in power.

Alito wrote that the three-judge panel took a “misguided approach,” faulting the evidence it relied on to conclude the map was racially gerrymandered, and accusing the panel of “paying lip service” to the assumption that the legislature had acted in good faith.

The ruling also threw out the lower court’s finding that the map had intentionally diluted the electoral power of Black voters, ordering it to reconsider that issue using stringent criteria under Supreme Court precedents.

Kagan said electoral map sorting based on race will continue as a result of Thursday’s ruling, writing: “We should demand better – of ourselves, of our political representatives, and most of all of this court.” Kagan said the ruling “thwarts efforts to undo a pernicious kind of race-based discrimination,” and is “meant to scuttle gerrymandering cases.”

ACLU voting rights lawyer Adriel Cepeda Derieux called the ruling “an affront to Black voters, democracy and precedent.”

Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas in a separate opinion questioned whether the Supreme Court even has authority in electoral map disputes. It actually has “no power” to decide claims of racial discrimination or vote-dilution in this context, Thomas wrote.

“Drawing political districts is a task for politicians, not federal judges,” Thomas wrote.

The map shifted 30,000 Black residents who had been in the 1st congressional district into the neighboring 6th congressional district, which is the only one of South Carolina’s House districts represented by a Democrat.

With the district’s previous boundaries, Republican Nancy Mace only narrowly defeated an incumbent Democrat in 2020. With the redistricting, Mace comfortably won re-election in 2022.

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(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – Reuters)