The Decisive Vote to Strike Down Racial Gerrymandering Came From … Clarence Thomas?

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that North Carolina's Republican-controlled legislature relied on racial gerrymandering when drawing the state's congressional districts, a decision that could make it easier to challenge other state redistricting plans. North Carolina is a relatively evenly divided swing state-Donald Trump won it by just 3 points last year-yet these lines offered Republicans 10 safe districts while creating three lopsidedly Democratic seats.

The Supreme Court refused to consider reinstating the 2013 North Carolina voting law that discriminated against African American voters, according to a lower court ruling.

Justice [Elena] Kagan said black voters, in coalitions with others, had been able to elect their preferred candidates even before the redistricting.

While lawmakers said they ignored race in redrawing the state's congressional districts and focused exclusively on party affiliation, the result is the same: divided communities and rigged elections that continue to deny North Carolina voters of their constitutional right to have a voice in choosing their representatives. The problem with that reasoning - as the court unanimously concluded - was that black voters had already been electing their candidate of choice in CD 1.

"A precedent of this court should not be treated like a disposable household item-say a paper plate or a napkin-to be used once and then tossed in the trash", Alito wrote. She also said North Carolina lawmakers should appoint an independent commission to draw district boundaries.

However, the North Carolina GOP's new, allegedly "partisan-only" map is still in place at the moment, and there's still a long way to go before it, too, might come undone at the hands of the courts.

African-American and Democratic critics accused Republicans of drawing districts to contain more African Americans than necessary to keep surrounding districts more white and more Republican. "In fact, the overwhelming evidence in this case shows that a (black voting-age population) percentage floor, or a racial quota, was established in both CD 1 and CD 12".

Alito also criticized the majority decision for failing to stand by a 2001 case in which the high court upheld a similar configuration for that district.

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"Although States enjoy leeway to take race-based actions reasonably judged necessary under a proper interpretation of the VRA, that latitude can not rescue District 1", Kagan wrote.

In the coming months, the court is expected to weigh in on a case from Wisconsin involving partisan, not racial, gerrymandering.

Even though no changes were required in District 12, lawmakers undertook dramatic efforts contending that the changes were made based on political not racial gerrymander. A federal district court disagreed in February 2016 and ruled the use of race in drawing CD1 unconstitutional.

Cooper issued a statement applauding Supreme Court for supporting "a level playing field and fair elections" for voters.

Kagan's opinion was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.

Both of those districts are represented by Democrats; Rep. "It is a logical response to the hard problem of distinguishing between racial and political motivations when race and political party preference closely correlate", Alito wrote, noting there was "strong evidence" that the map was drawn to "maximize Republican opportunities".

New challenges have been filed to the redrawn districts, this time claiming that politics played too much of a role in their creation.

Justice Neil Gorsuch did not part in the decision. By either herding opponents into a handful of districts to ensure the ruling party's continued majority, or by cracking that minority party into numerous districts that diminish its voting power, gerrymandering is a case of placing partisanship ahead of fairness.

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