Yesterday, the Supreme Court struck down North Carolina’s 2011 congressional district map, where large blocs of black voters had been subject to racial gerrymandering and placed in oddly shaped districts. The Court determined that there was no compelling racial interest to permit the boundaries of these districts. The vote was decided by Justice Kagan, Justice Thomas (surprise), Justice Ginsburg, Justice Breyer, and Justice Sotomayor.

The Republican Party drew NC Congressional Districts 1 and 12 to create majority-minority districts that would be safely Democratic. Maintaining majority-minority is legal, especially if minority votes are demonstrably diluted by majority votes in a state, such that minority communities are unable to ever elect congressional representation.

However, the plaintiffs in the case, including the state NAACP and other civil rights groups, argued that the actual intended outcome in these districts was to dilute black votes and create more safe Republican districts in the surrounding areas. The giveaway? The shapes of these districts are highly questionable (map below):racial

District 12 is a narrow stretch of land sandwiched between districts 8 and 9. Black voters comprise over 50% of voters in both districts, around 50.7% of residents in District 12 and 52.7% of District 1. North Carolina claimed that District 1 was intended to be a majority minority district in accordance with the Voting Rights Act–but the Justices determined that this did not meet the appropriate criteria for taking race into account and the district was drawn in “error.”

This ruling was a victory for voting rights activists. While the fight is not over, this case sets an important precedent for district  gerrymandering in the South. States will have to demonstrate more compelling reasons to draw Congressional districts along racial lines.

Photo Credits: North Carolina General Assembly