The US Supreme Court [official website] on Monday affirmed [order list, PDF] a lower court decision striking down a North Carolina state House and Senate redistricting effort as racial gerrymandering that disproportionately impacted black voters. The court affirmed the order by summary disposition. Also Monday the court vacated [opinion, PDF] an order requiring North Carolina to hold special elections, finding that the lower court failed to perform an adequate analysis:
Although this Court has never addressed whether or when a special election may be a proper remedy for a racial gerrymander, obvious considerations include the severity and nature of the particular constitutional violation, the extent of the likely disruption to the ordinary processes of governance if early elections are imposed, and the need to act with proper judicial restraint when intruding on state sovereignty. … Rather than undertaking such an analysis in this case the District Court addressed the balance of equities in only the most cursory fashion. As noted above, the court simply announced that “[w]hile special elections have costs,” those unspecified costs “pale in comparison” to the prospect that citizens will be “represented by legislators elected pursuant to a racial gerrymander. … That minimal reasoning would appear to justify a special election in every racial-gerrymandering case—a result clearly at odds with our demand for careful case-specific analysis. For that reason, we cannot have confidence that the court adequately grappled with the interests on both sides of the remedial question before us.
The case was remanded to the lower court for further consideration.
The state legislative districts were redrawn in 2011 and challenged in May 2015. A panel of three federal judges struck them down in August. The judges then ordered North Carolina to redraw [JURIST report] congressional districts by March 15, 2017, and hold special primary and general elections by the fall of 2017. The Supreme Court blocked [JURIST report] that order in January. Monday’s orders come after the Supreme Court struck down [JURIST report] two North Carolina congressional districts as racial gerrymandering last month.