In a major decision issued on Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that two of North Carolina’s congressional districts had been gerrymandered on unconstitutionally racial lines.
The opinion, delivered by Justice Elena Kagan, affirmed an earlier ruling by a federal court that North Carolina’s 1st and 12th districts were intentionally drawn to limit the reach of black voters.
The justices unanimously agreed that the 1st district was unconstitutional.
From the ruling:
Uncontested evidence in the record shows that the State’s mapmakers, in considering District 1, purposefully established a racial target: African-Americans should make up no less than a majority of the voting-age population.
They split 5–3 over whether the 12th was improper. (Justice Neil Gorsuch did not participate.)
In a surprise twist, Justice Clarence Thomas, a notorious skeptic of race-based arguments who is considered by many to be the most right-wing of all the justices, sided with the Court’s liberals in the ruling. If Clarence Thomas is calling your decisions too racist, you know you’ve gone wrong.
Citing the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, the Supreme Court ruling also included maps of the two unconstitutional districts.
“This will lead to many more successful racial gerrymandering cases in the American South and elsewhere,” Richard L. Hasen, a law professor at UC Irvine, told the New York Times.
North Carolina is no stranger to such racially motivated aims; a court infamously ruled that it had engineered its voter ID laws to target black people with “almost surgical precision.”