The US Supreme Court ruled [opinion, PDF] Monday in Cooper v. Harris [SCOTUSblog materials] that North Carolina’s redistricting was unconstitutional. North Carolina officials redrew two congressional districts after the 2010 census, neither of which had a majority black voting-age population, but “both consistently elected the candidates preferred by most African-American voters.” To comply with the one-person-one-vote standard, District 1 needed to add nearly 100,000 people. Most of the people added were “from heavily black areas of Durham—increasing the district’s BVAP from 48.6 percent to 52.7 percent.” District 12 was also reconfigured, increasing African-American voters from 43.8 percent to 50.7 percent. The court held that the state “made no attempt to justify race-based districting there.” In a dissenting opinion, Justice Samuel Alito cited a previous state court lawsuit concerning North Carolina’s District 12 and argued that the court “junks a rule adopted in a prior, remarkably similar challenge to this very same congressional district.” The court held, however, that “North Carolina’s victory in a similar state-court lawsuit does not dictate the disposition of this case.”
Voting rights and how voters are grouped and counted has become and increasingly important issue over the past year. In January the Department of Justice sued [JURIST report] Detroit Suburbs over a potential Voting Rights Act violation regarding the ability of minorities to elect other minority members as council members. Earlier that week the US Supreme Court blocked [JURIST report] a ruling ordering the redrawing of the congressional district map and special elections to be held in North Carolina. This came after the Supreme Court heard arguments [JURIST report] in racial gerymanderings cases from Virginia along with arguments from North Carolina’s case. In September several organizations filed a federal lawsuit challenging Georgia’s voter registration system [JURIST report]. Last April the Supreme Court unanimously upheld [JURIST report] an Arizona commission’s decisions regarding the redistricting of voting districts in the state.