Courts & the Law, News

U.S. Supreme Court orders lower court to review Virginia’s racial gerrymandering case

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday issued a decision in Bethune-Hill v. Virginia State Board of Elections, a racial gerrymandering case out of Virginia.

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice had filed a brief in support of plaintiff’s in the case arguing that the state’s unnecessary use of race in redistricting fractured African-American communities and packed black voters into as few districts as possible and thus violating the U.S. Constitution.

The organization released the following statement Wednesday explaining the high court’s ruling.

[The Supreme Court found] that the trial court used the wrong standard when deciding that race did not predominate in the drawing of 11 of Virginia’s state legislative districts. The Court has remanded the case back to the trial court for reconsideration. The 6-2 decision of the Court was authored by Justice Kennedy. All eight justices concurred that the trial court used the wrong legal standard, but Justices Alito and Thomas disagreed with the majority’s decision to remand the question of whether race predominated — they both would hold that it did without further proceedings.

You can read SCOTUSblog’s in depth analysis about the case here.

Allison Riggs, senior voting rights attorney for SCSJ, issued the following statement after the opinion was announced:

“We are confident that the trial court will recognize that Virginia assigned voters to districts based on their race without justification when the case is reconsidered using the correct legal standard. Today’s decision reaffirms that racially packing legislative districts is unconstitutional and will not be tolerated. The excessive use of race in redistricting is harmful for all voters.”

Oral argument in the Virginia case was heard Dec. 5, the same day justices heard McCrory v. Harris, a North Carolina racial gerrymandering case that deals specifically with districts 1 and 12 after a three-judge panel ruled in February that the state’s Congressional District map was drawn with racial bias.

McCrory has yet to be decided. Rick Hasen wrote Wednesday that the North Carolina case “presents a more difficult question about how to deal with the problem of the overlap of race and party concerns, especially in the South.” His full analysis of the decision in Bethune-Hill can be found here.

 

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