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How Racial Bias is Affecting Voting Maps

This past week, the Supreme Court ruled against Republican-led legislatures who redrew the congressional districts, claiming they violated the Constitution. The justices claimed the legislatures relied heavily on race when redrawing the voting districts, especially in North Carolina and other areas of the south. In similar cases, the Supreme Court has explained that concentrating black voters into a select number of districts significantly weakens their voting power, and therefore violates the Constitution.

Contrarily, the legislatures said they were attempting to pack black votes in a few districts to better enable them to elect their preferred candidates, according to compliance with the Voting Rights Act. Some of those who object to this decision claim it is an excuse, and that the Republican lawmakers were actually trying to regain votes lost to Democrats. Regardless of the mixed motives, Justice Elena Kagan states that race could prevail. The heart of the issue is that the court must separate race and partisanship when recent studies are indicating that black voters tend to favor Democrats.

In court, the Supreme Court did not approve the new lines drawn for North Carolina’s voting districts, but Republicans hope for another appeal. Those looking for reconsideration argue that an alternative map should have been drawn or that the court committed some other error in handling the case. On these grounds, they want the matter reassessed.

While the issue of racial gerrymandering is continually discussed among justices and lawmakers, the overall opinion generally concludes that the standards are inconsistent. In order to gain clarity, voting rights lawyers and looking for another opportunity to legally challenge gerrymandering. The lawsuits would be based on race, as well as challenges to partisan gerrymandering, should the newest appeal go through.

For more about this issue, read the New York Times article “Justices Reject 2 Gerrymandered North Carolina Districts, Citing Racial Bias.”

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