North Carolina Republicans haven’t had much luck in the U.S. Supreme Court recently. Just a few weeks after the nation’s highest court denied them a chance to appeal a lower court’s rejection of their 2013 voter-ID law, and after it also struck down two of its 2011 federal legislative districts as unconstitutional racial gerrymanders, the Court today affirmed a district court’s ruling that nine Senate seats and 19 House of Representatives seats in the state General Assembly are unconstitutional racial gerrymanders.
Like the state’s federal legislative map, the General Assembly maps were also drawn in 2011 by Republicans during the latest round of redistricting. As was true for the federal districts, Republicans redrew many of the state legislative districts in a way that dramatically increased the numbers of black voters, thus “packing” black voters there and diluting black votes elsewhere.
While the Voting Rights Act gives states authority to create majority-minority districts to protect minority representation, a panel of judges in the U.S. Court for the Middle District of North Carolina found in August 2016 that in the 28 districts challenged by the plaintiffs, Republicans did not meet the preconditions required to trigger that authority. In a follow-up decision this January, that court found the appropriate remedy would be redrawing the General Assembly maps by March 2017, and mandating a special election in the fall of 2017 in the affected districts, since they had been unconstitutional gerrymanders during the 2016 elections.