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US Supreme Court agrees to hear case on alleged bias in voting map

The case centers on the allegation that South Carolina Republican lawmakers drew district maps to dilute the share of black votes.

He US Supreme Court He agreed on Monday to hear an offer from South Carolina officials to revive a Republican-crafted voting map that a lower court said had unconstitutionally “exiled” 30,000 black voters from a hotly contested congressional district.

The judges took up an appeal by South Carolina officials of a federal judicial panel ruling that found the Republican-drawn map had deliberately divided black neighborhoods in Charleston County in “stark racial manipulation” and ordered that it be redraw the district.

gerrymandering it is a practice that involves the manipulation of electoral district boundaries to marginalize a certain group of voters and increase the influence of others. In this case, Republican lawmakers were accused of racial manipulation to reduce the influence of black voters.

Legislative districts in the United States are redrawed to reflect population changes documented in the national census conducted by the federal government each decade. The Republican-controlled South Carolina legislature adopted a new voting map last year following the US Census 2020.

In a major blow to election reformers, the Supreme Court in 2019 rejected attempts to stop voter rigging done for partisan advantage, concluding that federal judges do not have the authority to stop the practice. The alleged race-based manipulation can be challenged in federal court, but the Supreme Courtwhich has a conservative majority, has rolled back protections over the past decade.

In the case of South Carolina, the map in question established new boundaries for the state’s 1st Congressional District, which for nearly four decades had consistently elected a Republican to the House until 2018, when a Democrat secured what was deemed a surprise victory. In 2020, Republican Nancy Mace carried the district by just over one percentage point.

In redrawing the district last year, Republicans moved more than 30,000 black residents in Charleston County to the neighboring black-majority 6th congressional district, which for more than 30 years has been represented in the House by Rep. James Clyburn, a black democratic legislator

The Republican map resulted in a 1st District with a higher percentage of Republican-leaning white voters. Mace, who is white, won re-election by 14 percentage points last November under the new district configuration.

The state conference of the civil rights group the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) filed a lawsuit in 2022, arguing that several House districts created under the map were designed, at least in part, with “ a racially discriminatory intent to discriminate against black voters in violation of the Constitution of the United States.”

Is gerrymandering destroying American democracy?

In January, a three-judge federal panel ruled that the way the 1st District was drawn violated the rights of black voters under the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, which guarantee equal protection under the law and prohibit elections based on race. electoral discrimination.

The strategies employed to draw the district lines, the panel wrote, “ultimately exiled more than 30,000 African-American citizens from its former district and created stark racial manipulation of Charleston County and the city of Charleston.”

The justices, all three appointed by Democratic presidents, ruled that no election can be held in the 1st District until it has been redrafted, prompting South Carolina Republican officials to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The South Carolina chapter of the NAACP and Taiwan Scott, a black voter who lives in South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District, urged judges Monday to uphold the lower court’s ruling.

“South Carolina’s congressional map is the latest example in our state’s long and painful history of racial discrimination that must be remedied,” they said in a statement. “As the case moves to oral argument, we implore the court to uphold the panel’s decision and protect South Carolina’s black voters from this egregious form of discrimination.”

The case will be heard during the Supreme Court’s next term, which begins in October.

In most states, redistricting is carried out by the ruling party, although some states assign the task to independent commissions to ensure fairness. Gerrymandering typically involves grouping voters who tend to favor a particular party into a small number of districts to lessen their statewide voting power while dispersing others into districts in numbers too small to be a majority.

In another case involving redistricting and race, the Supreme Court is considering Alabama’s appeal of a lower court’s decision that a Republican-drawn electoral map drawing the boundaries of the state’s seven US House districts illegally diluted voter influence blacks. A decision in the case is expected by the end of June.

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