In a rare move on Monday, Justice Clarence Thomas joined forces with liberal Supreme Court justices and ruled that North Carolina’s GOP-controlled legislature’s redistricting “unlawfully relied on race when drawing two of the state’s congressional districts,” The Washington Post reports.
The justices found that racial considerations improperly influenced redistricting, meaning that Republicans moved minorities, who tend to vote Democrat, illegally. Virginia, Alabama, and North Carolina have all fallen to the same gerrymandering issue when they redistricted.
These states argued that redistricting actions were partisan, and they were just trying to protect their majorities. Prior to this ruling, the Supreme Court has allowed that argument, because lowering the impact of minority voters is unquestioningly illegal.
Justice Clarence Thomas crossed over from his strictly conservative line to join the liberal justices. The newest justice, Neil Gorsuch did not participate, because he did not join the court until after this case was heard.
Justice Elena Kagan reported that North Carolina said the state was using race too much to “reshuffle” voters from one district into another one. The justices were split 5 to 3 on one of the districts and unanimous on the other.
North Carolina is a battle state where Republicans and Democrats vie for votes. The Supreme Court refused to review a lower court’s finding that a 2013 complete rewrite of the state’s voting laws was unconstitutional. The reasoning behind the decision was the state tried to reduce the influence of African-American voters.
In North Carolina, the legislation’s leaders requested that the Supreme Court take on this case, but a Democratic governor and attorney general chose not to defend the law.
A lower court found that the congressional redistricting drew its lines improperly. The 2016 elections gave Republicans control over 10 out of 13 districts.
The challengers argued that North Carolina legislators stuffed minority voters into a few districts to dilute their influence. The state said it had to think of race during the redrawing of districts, but its primary purpose was to maintain Republican control.
Check out this video that shows how gerrymandering works:
Featured Image via Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla.
[H/T: Washington Post.]