U.S. top court puts North Carolina voting districts ruling on hold

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By Lawrence Hurley | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday put
on hold a lower court’s ruling requiring North Carolina to
immediately redraw state legislative districts found to have
been be mapped out in a way that crammed black voters into a
limited number of them to dilute their electoral clout.

The high court’s brief order also delayed a special election
the lower court had said should be held this year.

“On behalf of our clients, we continue to trust that the
district court’s ruling will be upheld and new districts
ultimately will be drawn that are not based on race,” said Anita
Earls, executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social
Justice, a civil rights group that represents a group of voters
who challenged the districts drawn by North Carolina’s
Republican-controlled legislature in 2011.

A three-judge district court panel ruled last August the
districts were racial “gerrymanders,” with boundaries drawn to
diminish the voting power of minorities, and violated the U.S.
Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.

Packing minorities into a limited number of legislative
districts would reduce their influence in electing a larger
number of lawmakers, increasing the sway of white voters.

The panel ruled in November that the state should draw new
districts and hold a special election. The state asked the
Supreme Court to put the ruling on hold until the justices
decide whether to uphold the decision, which state officials
have appealed.

The plaintiffs sued in 2015, saying legislative district
lines were drawn so as to dilute the state’s black vote, which
tends to back Democrats, and give Republicans an advantage.

The Supreme Court in December heard arguments in another
redistricting case from North Carolina concerning U.S. House of
Representatives districts. Plaintiffs in that case also said
that race was unlawfully considered in drawing the boundaries.

Race can be considered only in certain instances, such as
when states are seeking to comply with the federal Voting Rights
Act. That law protects minority voters and was enacted to
address a history of racial discrimination in voting, especially
in Southern states.

The Supreme Court’s order did not make note of any
dissenting votes among the eight justices.



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