Supreme Court Approves Gerrymandered Maps that Would Suppress Black Voter Influence, Analysts Say

by Xara Aziz

The Supreme Court sided with South Carolina Republicans last Thursday, approving racially gerrymandered maps that dilute Black voter influence. This decision could affect future challenges to voter gerrymandering nationwide.

South Carolina can now use a congressional map previously rejected by a lower court for undermining Black voters’ rights. The three-judge panel had determined that the GOP-controlled state legislature created an unconstitutional racial gerrymander by moving thousands of Black voters to another district to secure a safer seat for a white Republican incumbent, according to The Washington Post.

However, in a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court found the evidence of racial motivation weak and stated that courts must assume lawmakers acted in good faith. With this year’s election crucial for determining control of the U.S. House of Representatives, this ruling is a significant win for conservatives beyond just Rep. Nancy Mace’s (R-SC) district.

This decision also sets a troubling precedent, raising the bar for proving a map is racially gerrymandered rather than just partisan. The court has previously ruled that the Constitution prohibits racial gerrymandering but that federal courts cannot regulate partisan gerrymandering.

Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., writing for the majority, which included all Republican-appointed justices, noted that the close correlation between race and partisan preferences did not sufficiently demonstrate that race, rather than politics, influenced the legislature’s choices. Justice Clarence Thomas, in a solo concurring opinion, argued for overturning all precedents limiting gerrymandering, including those establishing “one person, one vote,” as he believes the court lacks constitutional authority to redraw maps. Surprisingly, Thomas linked the court’s failure to limit racial redistricting in this case to the Brown v. Board of Education decision, which outlawed segregated schools.

Thomas also criticized the court’s efforts to integrate public schools, calling them “predicated on black inferiority.”

“The dispute between the Democratic and Republican appointees in this case is a technical one, but one with massive legal consequences,” said Supreme Court analyst and law professor at the University of Texas Steve Vladeck.

“Here, the conservative justices effectively substituted their judgment about what actually happened for that of the district court – which could have consequences far beyond the specific context of racial gerrymandering cases,” Vladeck added.

The South Carolina case is one of several in the courts since the 2020 census prompted many congressional map redraws. In 2023, courts ordered Alabama to redraw its maps for violating the Voting Rights Act of 1965. A related redistricting case from Louisiana is also progressing through the federal court system.

Related Posts

Crown App