Redistricting

In a 7-1 decision in Bethune-Hill v. Virginia State Board of Elections the Supreme Court rejected the notions that race predominates in redistricting only when there is an actual conflict between traditional redistricting criteria and race and that the predominance analysis should apply only to new district lines that appear to deviate from traditional redistricting criteria.

Regarding District 75, where the lower court determined race did predominate, the Supreme Court agreed the State’s use of race was narrowly tailored because it had “good reasons to believe” that a target of a 55% black voting-age population (BVAP) was necessary to avoid diminishing the ability of black voters to elect their preferred candidate.

CSG Midwest
In November 2016, a panel of federal district judges struck down Wisconsin’s 2011 state legislative district maps as an unconstitutional gerrymander. “It is clear that the drafters got what they intended to get,” Judge Kenneth Ripple wrote in the 2-1 decision. “There is no question that Act 43 was designed to make it more difficult for Democrats, compared with Republicans, to translate their votes into seats.”

McCrory v. Harris is a typical redistricting case in at least two respects. First, it raises so many legal issues that it is impossible to know what the Supreme Court will focus on. Second, beyond all the technical legal arguments, plaintiffs’ fundamental objection to the redistricting plan is familiar:  they claim the legislature packed minority voters into safe minority districts under the guise of complying with the Voting Right Act (VRA) to reduce minority voters’ influence in other districts. North Carolina claims it is caught in a “Catch-22.”

Bethune-Hill v. Virginia State Board of Elections, like many redistricting cases, is complicated. The lower court opinion, including a dissent, is nearly 200 pages long. So it is difficult to know what the Supreme Court will focus on.

But what those challenging the plan seem most upset about is that the lower court concluded race does not “predominate” in redistricting unless the use of race resulted in an “actual conflict” with traditional redistricting criteria. 

Voters from 12 Virginia House of Delegates districts claim their districts were uncon

The Supreme Court held unanimously in Wittman v. Personhuballah that three members of Congress from Virginia lacked “standing” to intervene in a lawsuit alleging that Virginia’s redistricting plan resulted in an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. One legislator ultimately told the Court he would not be affected by its decision; the other two legislators failed to identify evidence indicating rejecting Virginia’s plan would harm them.

A redistricting plan amounts to an unconstitutional racial gerrymander in violation of the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause if the legislature’s predominant consideration in drawing electoral boundaries was race and the plan fails strict scrutiny (it isn’t narrowly tailored to advance a compelling state interest).

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