June 24, 2024
SCOTUS Finds No Bias against Blacks in Charleston-Area Congressional District

SCOTUS Finds No Bias against Blacks in Charleston-Area Congressional District

(Headline USA) The Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Republican-held South Carolina congressional district, rejecting a lower-court ruling that said the district discriminated against black voters.

In a 6-3 decision, the court held that South Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature did nothing wrong during redistricting when it strengthened Rep. Nancy Mace’s hold on the coastal district by moving 30,000 Democratic-leaning black residents of Charleston out of the district.

“It reaffirms everything everyone in South Carolina already knows, which is that the line wasn’t based on race,” said Mace, responding to the court’s decision.

The issue has vexed the court in recent years, notably as left-wing activist groups reflexively continue to challenge every effort by Republican legislatures that might give them any kind of legislative advantage by suggesting that the redrawing of districts, however fair-minded, was motivated by race instead of political considerations.

The court previously ruled that racial gerrymandering was impermissible but partisan gerrymandering was allowable under federal law, creating a bizarre and highly subjective standard for itself.

Confoundingly, it has also hinted in other cases that some racial gerrymandering may be necessary in maps where there are an insufficient number of minority-dedicated districts because blacks are not geographically clustered enough.

The South Carolina case once more presented the court with the tricky issue of how to distinguish race from politics.

A lower court had ordered South Carolina to redraw the district after it found that the state used race as a proxy for partisan affiliation in violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

The state argued that partisan politics, not race, and a population boom in coastal areas explain the congressional map.

Thursday’s decision won’t have a direct effect on the 2024 election. The lower court had previously ordered the state to use the challenged map in the November vote, which could help Republicans as they try to hold on to their narrow majority in the House of Representatives.

Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the court, criticized lower-court judges for their “misguided approach” that refused to presume that lawmakers acted in good faith and gave too much credit to the challengers.

Alito wrote that one weakness of the case was that the activist plaintiffs did not produce an alternative map, which he called an “implicit concession” that they couldn’t have drawn one.

“The District Court’s conclusions are clearly erroneous because it did not follow this basic logic,” he wrote.

Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the court’s three liberal justices, said the decision insulated states against claims of unconstitutional racial gerrymandering.

“Perhaps most dispiriting,” Kagan wrote, the court adopted “special rules to specially disadvantage suits to remedy race-based redistricting.”

However, Sen. Thomas Alexander, the president of the South Carolina Senate, praised the ruling. “As I have said throughout this process, our plan was meticulously crafted to comply with statutory and constitutional requirements, and I was completely confident we would prevail,” Alexander said.

The Supreme Court in 2019 ruled that partisan gerrymandering cases could be not be brought in federal courts.

Justice Clarence Thomas, who was part of the conservative majority five years ago, wrote separately Thursday to say federal courts should similarly get out of the business of refereeing racial gerrymandering disputes.

“It is well past time for the Court to return these political issues where they belong—the political branches,” Thomas wrote. No other justice signed on.

When Mace first won election in 2020, she edged Democratic incumbent Rep. Joe Cunningham by 1%, under 5,400 votes.

In 2022, following redistricting driven by the 2020 census results, Mace won reelection by 14%.

However, the shift may not entirely be indicative of redistricting. Mace has garnered a reputation as a political maverick, who has frequently flouted political conventions and often bucked establishment politics. She was among eight Republicans who voted in October to oust Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., as House speaker.

Moreover, Charleston has continued to become an affluent and in-demand region. It recently elected its first Republican mayor since 1877.

Even black residents in the area tend to be more conservative, as MSNBC uncomfortably discovered when it interviewed a panel of black Trump supporters at a barber shop in February.

The case differed from one in Alabama in which the court ruled last year that Republican lawmakers diluted black voters’ political power under the landmark Voting Rights Act by drawing just one district with a majority black population.

The court’s controversial—and contradictory—decision to require racial gerrymandering when it was in the reverse led to new maps in Alabama and Louisiana creating a second district where Democratic-leaning black voters comprise a substantial portion of the electorate.

In South Carolina, black voters wouldn’t have been as numerous in a redrawn district. But combined with a substantial set of Democratic-leaning white voters, Democrats might have been competitive in the reconfigured district.

The high court left open one part of the case about whether the map intentionally sought to dilute the votes of black residents.

President Joe Biden, whose administration backed the plaintiffs, criticized the ruling. “The Supreme Court’s decision today undermines the basic principle that voting practices should not discriminate on account of race and that is wrong,” Biden said in a statement.

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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