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U.S. Supreme Court Orders State Review Of NC Redistricting

Jeff Kubina
Wikimedia Commons

Four years after state lawmakers redrew North Carolina's legislative maps, it is still unclear whether those maps violate the Voting Rights Act. The U.S. Supreme Court Monday ordered the North Carolina Supreme Court to reconsider the maps. WFAE's Michael Tomsic and Ben Bradford discuss what this means.

Ben: What did the U.S. Supreme Court say this morning?

Michael: It vacated a ruling in December by the North Carolina Supreme Court that upheld the maps. Republicans in control of the General Assembly redrew the legislative and Congressional boundaries after the 2010 Census. One of the things they did was put a lot of African-American voters, who traditionally vote Democratic, into a few districts. Since then, the question has been did the lawmakers rely too much on race? The lawmakers said no, they were just following the Voting Rights Act by creating districts with African-American majorities. The North Carolina Supreme Court agreed.

Ben: Is the U.S. Supreme court saying that North Carolina’s high court got it wrong?

Michael: Not necessarily. What the justices are saying is that the state Supreme Court needs to take another look in light of the guidance the justices recently laid out in their decision on Alabama's redistricting.

Basically, Republican lawmakers in Alabama said Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act required them to put a certain percentage of African-Americans into certain districts. Lower courts agreed. But last month, the U.S. Supreme Court said that's a misinterpretation of the law – Section 5 does not require you to maintain a particular numerical percentage. So the justices sent that case back to the lower courts.

Ben: How similar are the Alabama and North Carolina cases?

Michael: They're not apples to apples, but they both involve allegations of Republican lawmakers packing African-Americans into a few districts. But lawmakers in each state pointed to different parts of the Voting Rights Act in explaining what they did. The U.S. Supreme Court did not address one section of the law (Section 2) that North Carolina lawmakers cite in justifying how much they relied on race.

Ben: So will there be another round of oral arguments at the North Carolina Supreme Court?

Michael: Could be, or the state Supreme Court could just ask for written briefs, or it could send the case to a lower court.