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Thursday, June 13, 2024

U.S. High Court Alabama redistricting ruling holds hope for North Carolina

By Cash Michaels, Peacemaker Senior Contributor / June 16, 2023

Rarely does news about Alabama put smiles on the faces of Black North Carolinians, especially when it involves the conservative majority U.S. Supreme Court. But last week was a definite exception.

By a 5-4 vote, the high court ruled that Alabama’s Republican legislators must redraw the state’s voting districts so that Black voters are able to elect their own congressional representative. Instead of further diluting the 1965 Voting Rights Act, two conservative justices, Republican Chief Justice John Roberts, and fellow conservative Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, joined the court’s liberal justices in finding that Alabama violated federal civil rights law by only drawing one majority-Black voting district out of seven statewide, even though African Americans make up 27 percent of the state’s population.

That ruling has North Carolina political experts paying attention, particularly as it relates to the upcoming 2024 elections.

“Today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court is a victory for American democracy and voters everywhere,” said Bob Phillips, Executive Director of the non-partisan Common Cause North Carolina. “This decision should serve as a clear warning to North Carolina politicians that racist gerrymandering and attacks on voting rights will not stand.”

“Current anti-voter proposals in the North Carolina legislature – including N.C. Senate Bill 747 – would disproportionately harm people of color, “Phillips continued. “And legislators are preparing for yet another round of redistricting that so often has targeted Black and brown voters through extreme gerrymandering.”
Phillips concluded, “North Carolina politicians should take note of today’s ruling and reject attempts to undermine voting rights. We must protect everyone’s freedom to vote.”

A lower federal court had ruled that Black voters in Alabama had been shortchanged by their GOP legislators, so having the conservative-led U.S. Supreme Court uphold the ruling was a surprise, a surprise that a Raleigh News & Observer editorial warned North Carolina’s Republican lawmakers to pay attention to when they redraw congressional voting districts in a few weeks.

“The court’s decision in Allen v. Milligan may limit how much North Carolina’s Republican lawmakers can dilute Black – read Democratic – voting power when they draw new districts for the 2024 election,” the N&O said.

The ruling “makes it likely that Republican state legislators will not attempt to draw new maps aimed at electing an 11-3 GOP majority in North Carolina’s [congressional] House seats.”

“This ruling is a game changer for the overall picture in the (U.S.) House because it could affect what Republicans will try to do in North Carolina,” said David Wasserman, senior editor of The Cook Political Report.

In effect, while the Republican – led N.C. General Assembly is still free to redraw legislative voting districts per partisan gerrymandering, the Alabama decision reinforces the illegality of racial gerrymandering, thus closing what had been earlier seen as a possible loophole to redistricting if the Supreme Court had ruled otherwise.

The surprise ruling also means that if Republicans in Congress were hoping to extend their majority in the U.S. House, they’ll now have a harder time doing so.
So it remains to be seen how the GOP – led N.C. legislature interprets what leeway it now has in redrawing voting districts for 2024.


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Since 1967, the Carolina Peacemaker has served as North Carolina’s leading news weekly with a national reputation. Founded by Dr. John Kilimanjaro, the newspaper is published by Carolina Newspaper, Inc.

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