The Supreme Court recently ruled North Carolina packed its Black voters into two districts in order to lessen their political influence elsewhere. This is the second victory against North Carolina’s voter suppression tactics. David Harris led the lawsuit against North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper over the state’s discriminatory voter redistricting plan.
The Supreme Court found evidence proving North Carolina purposefully established a racial goal for certain voting districts that “had a direct and significant impact” on Black voters. North Carolina had intentionally gerrymandered voting districts to increase the number of eligible Black voters within them in order to maintain political control of surrounding White districts, the Court found.
In her opinion, Justice Elena Kagen repeatedly questioned the attorney for North Carolina on how the disputed districts came to have such a high increase in Black voters. But, North Carolina claimed it was the political gerrymandering, which is legal and focused on Democratic voters, not racially rigging the districts to lessen the impact of Black political power. Black voters happened to be Democrats resulting in the increase.
Gloria Browne-Marshall AANIC Supreme Court Correspondent
The Court disagreed, finding the race of voters was the predominate reason for moving Black voters in those two districts, not their political party. The Court found “uncontested evidence in the record that North Carolina purposely created a district where African-Americans would make up no less than a majority of the voting-age population.”
The decision in this North Carolina case marks a “major victory for voting rights plaintiffs, who have succeeded in turning the racial gerrymandering cause of action into an effective tool to go after partisan gerrymanders in Southern states,” wrote Richard Hasen, a professor at University of California, Irvine School of Law.
Only two years earlier, the Supreme Court found Alabama had been packing Black voters into certain urban districts to limit their political influence in surrounding suburban districts. Voter suppression tactics have taken the form of voter packing, vote dilution, poll taxes, Whites-only primaries, and even terrorism. Vote dilution means deliberately spreading Black voters across many districts preventing a large enough number of voters to ever elect a candidate of their choice. Vote dilution, like voter packing, if based on race, is a discriminatory tactic meant to undermine Black political power.
Cooper v. Harris is one of many voting cases brought since the Shelby v. Holder decision gutted the Voting Rights Act of its preclearance provision in 2013. Soon after, states began enacting voter laws resulting in costly litigation.
This victory in Cooper v. Harris comes a week after the NAACP won their case in North Carolina v. NAACP Conference of Branches. There, NAACP leaders challenged North Carolina’s decision to reduce the early voting period from 17 to 10 days, end out-of-precinct voting, stop preregistration by 16-year-olds, and require strict photo identification laws. The Supreme Court refused to hear North Carolina’s appeal which gave the NAACP its victory in that case.