Supreme Court sides with South Carolina GOP over racial gerrymander case

Supreme Court sides with South Carolina GOP over racial gerrymander case

The Supreme Court upheld a Republican-drawn congressional district in South Carolina on Thursday, reversing a lower court that had declared its boundaries an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.

In a 6-3 ruling along ideological lines, the justices signed off on a design that bolsters the GOP tilt of Rep. Nancy Mace’s (R-S.C.) district.

It aids Republicans in holding onto the seat for the future, though their map was already being implemented for this year’s election regardless of the Supreme Court’s ruling.

The high court’s conservative majority rejected arguments that the design impermissibly shifted some 30,000 Black Charleston-area voters to a different district.

A three-judge panel had found race was the predominant factor in the new design, ruling it a racial gerrymander in violation of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause. The decision sided with a Black voter and the South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP. Justice Samuel Alito, one of the high court’s leading conservatives, said the lower panel had paid “only lip service” to the Supreme Court’s doctrines surrounding redistricting.

“That misguided approach infected the District Court’s findings of fact, which were clearly erroneous under the appropriate legal standard. We therefore reverse the trial court in part and remand for further proceedings,” he continued.

Republican state lawmakers insisted the boundaries were changed because of politics, not race, and appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.

In dissent, Justice Elena Kagan, joined by fellow liberal Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson, said the conservative majority is “reworking the law” to “impede racial-gerrymandering cases.”

“The proper response to this case is not to throw up novel roadblocks enabling South Carolina to continue dividing citizens along racial lines,” Kagan wrote.

“It is to respect the plausible— no, the more than plausible—findings of the District Court that the State engaged in race-based districting. And to tell the State that it must redraw District 1, this time without targeting African-American citizens,” she added.

The lawmakers had previously asked the high court to rule by Jan. 1 to provide enough time before this year’s elections.

After that deadline passed with the design still in limbo, the three-judge panel agreed to reinstate the map, meaning it would’ve gone into effect for 2024 even if the Supreme Court had ruled it should be redrawn.

The Supreme Court’s decision now preserves the map beyond 2024, though it sends the case back to the lower court for further proceedings.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that courts should get out of adjudicating racial gerrymander claims brought under the 14th and 15th amendments, saying it should be left to the political branches.

“It behooves us to abandon our misguided efforts and leave districting to politicians,” Thomas wrote.

Updated at 10:45 a.m. EDT

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