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US Supreme Court Backs S. Carolina Republicans in Race-Based Voting Map Fight

  • What happened in South Carolina?

The U.S. Supreme Court made it way harder on Thursday to prove signs of racial discrimination in electoral maps in one of the biggest rulings backing South Carolina Republicans, who moved out 30,000 black residents right after they redrew a congressional district.

The 6-3 decision, in which conservative justices were in the majority and liberal justices dissenting, reversed a lower court’s ruling that the map violated the rights of black voters under the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment. This also guaranteed equal protection under the law. Conservative Justice Samuel Alita was the one who wrote the decision.

The liberal justices also expressed their alarm that the decision makes it way more difficult for legal challenges. In this case, it also included the NAACP civil rights group, the American Civil Liberties Union, and black voters to show that an electoral map unconstitutionally discriminates only on a race basis.

“This is quite a message to send to state legislators and mapmakers.” they often have their own incentives for using race to achieve partisan ends or even suppress the electoral influence of racial minorities, as Justice Elena Kagan wrote in a recent dissent with two other liberals. “This court says to states today to go right ahead.”

President Joe Biden, as a Democrat, stated that the ruling “undermines the basic principle that voting practices shouldn’t discriminate on account of race.” He also added that the decision threatens South Carolinians’ capacity to have their own voice heard at the ballot box, but also that the districting plan the court stuck with shows a dangerous pattern of racial gerrymandering efforts from Republican-elected officials to dilute the will of black voters.

For reference, gerrymandering refers to the manipulation of the geographical boundaries of electoral districts to marginalize a specific set of voters and also increase the influence of others. In this particular case, the Republican-controlled state legislature was accused of racial gerrymandering to reduce the influence of black voters.

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Photo by Andy.LIU from Shutterstock

Black voters historically support Democratic candidates.

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

The Supreme Court also sided with South Carolina Republicans, who repeatedly argued that the district, which also included parts of Charleston along the Atlantic coast, was definitely drawn to achieve partisan advantage.

The Supreme Court in 2019 also decided that map-making for partisan gain wasn’t as reviewable by federal courts, unlike redistricting on counts of race, which is still illegal. The boundaries of legislative districts all over the country are redrawn to keep up with population changes every decade.

In most states, redistricting is mainly done by the party in power. 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 might be used in the November 5 U.S. election. This will also decide which party controls the House.

Using this map might undercut Democratic chances of earning a House majority after losing it in 2022. Republicans also hold a 217–213 majority, and every competitive district might turn out to be crucial to the outcome since legal battles over redistricting in some states are still in the picture.

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