The Supreme Court’s Republican-appointed majority spent Wednesday morning seemingly hunting for a reason to uphold a South Carolina congressional map that everyone agrees was gerrymandered to benefit the Republican Party.
Under the Supreme Court’s precedents, federal courts are not allowed to hear lawsuits challenging partisan gerrymanders — that is, maps drawn to benefit one political party or the other. But federal courts may hear challenges to racial gerrymanders — maps drawn to minimize the political power of voters of a particular race. A lower court struck down the South Carolina map because it determined that while the state’s GOP-controlled legislature’s goal was to shore up Republican control over the state’s First Congressional District, the legislature did so by excluding Black voters from this district.
In South Carolina, about 90 percent of Black voters prefer Democrats to Republicans. So mapmakers could be quite sure that they were making the First District more Republican every time they removed a Black voter from it.
So, given the Court’s previous rulings, what happens when a legislative map is both a racial gerrymander and a partisan gerrymander, as the lower court found is the case in Alexander? The answer is supposed to be that the map is illegal. As the Supreme Court held in Cooper v. Harris (2017), “the sorting of voters on the grounds of their race remains suspect even if race is meant to function as a proxy for other (including political) characteristics.” [Continue reading…]