Supreme Court rules for GOP in South Carolina redistricting case

WASHINGTON – Supreme Court Thursday to rule That South Carolina Republicans illegally did not consider race when they gerrymandered a congressional district in a way that displaced thousands of black voters makes it difficult for civil rights plaintiffs to bring racial gerrymandering claims.

The court, which split 6-3 along ideological lines with conservatives in the majority, said the civil rights group had not done enough to show that lawmakers were focused on race in drawing the Charleston-area district currently represented by Republican Rep. Nancy Mace.

While the Supreme Court was considering the case, Much slower than expectedThe lower court that invalidated the map said it could be used in this year’s elections.

Thus, the justices’ ruling will have no immediate impact in South Carolina, but it sets the rules of the road for future redistricting efforts, making it easier to draw maps that disfavor black voters as long as mapmakers can show they are focused on politics, not race.

In the South, black voters tend to be Democrats, so it can be difficult to separate race from politics.

The court sided with Republican state officials who said their sole goal was to increase the Republican tilt in the area.

As a result of the ruling, Mace’s district will not have to be redrawn, dealing a blow to Democrats hoping to secure a more favorable map. Litigation could continue over a separate claim brought by plaintiffs against the map.

Because of the Supreme Court ruling, Rep. Nancy Mace, a Republican, will not need to redraw her congressional district.Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images file

Writing for the majority, conservative Justice Samuel Alito said there was “no direct evidence” to support the lower court’s conclusion that race was a key consideration when drawing the map.

“The circumstantial evidence does not show at all that race, not party preferences, drove the gerrymandering process,” he added.

Alito added that state lawmakers should be given the benefit of the doubt when confronting allegations that the maps were drawn with discriminatory intent.

“We should not rush to level such accusations against the political branches,” he wrote.

In dissent, liberal Justice Elena Kagan wrote that the majority had “stacked the deck” against the challengers By saying that the evidence about the impact on black voters can be easily overlooked if the state can present an alternative narrative that insists on dividing the electorate along partisan interests.

“What a message to send to state legislators and mapmakers about racial gerrymandering,” she added.

The message to politicians who “may want to suppress the electoral influence of minority voters” is: “Move forward immediately,” Kagan said.

The Supreme Court was reviewing a lower court ruling from January 2023 that said race was the overriding concern when one of the state’s seven counties was withdrawn. Republicans, led by South Carolina Senate President Thomas Alexander, appealed the decision.

Republicans redrawn boundaries after the 2020 census to consolidate GOP control over what has become a competitive district.

Democrat Joe Cunningham won the seat in 2018 and narrowly lost to Mace in 2020. Two years later, with a new map, Mace won by a wider margin.

Nearly 30,000 black voters relocated from the district were placed in a district controlled by Democratic Rep. James Clyburn, who is black. It is the only one of the seven congressional districts controlled by Democrats.

The NAACP’s Legal Defense and Education Fund and other civil rights groups not only alleged that Republicans illegally took race into account when they drew the maps, but that they also diluted the power of black voters in doing so.

These claims were made under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which requires that the law applies equally to everyone. The case arose under a different legal theory than the main ruling this year Civil rights advocates successfully challenged the maps drawn by Republicans in Alabama under the Voting Rights Act.

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