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Supreme Court Rules South Carolina Did Not Racially Gerrymander Congressional District


by Katelynn Richardson

 

The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 Thursday that a lower court “clearly erred” when it held that South Carolina racially gerrymandered its congressional district map.

The majority held that the “circumstantial evidence falls far short of showing that race, not partisan preferences, drove the districting process” behind the creation of the map.

“First, a party challenging a map’s constitutionality must disentangle race and politics if it wishes to prove that the legislature was motivated by race as opposed to partisanship,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the majority opinion. “Second, in assessing a legislature’s work, we start with a presumption that the legislature acted in good faith.”

“In this case, which features a challenge to South Carolina’s redistricting efforts in the wake of the 2020 census, the three-judge District Court paid only lip service to these propositions,” Alito continued, writing that the court’s findings of fact were “clearly erroneous under the appropriate legal standard.”

Justice Elena Kagan, in a dissent joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson, wrote that the majority’s opinion “betrays its distance from, and lack of familiarity with, the events and evidence central to this case.”

“The majority picks and chooses evidence to its liking; ignores or minimizes less convenient proof; disdains the panel’s judgments about witness credibility; and makes a series of mistakes about expert opinions,” Kagan wrote. “The majority declares that it knows better than the District Court what happened in a South Carolina map-drawing room to produce District 1.”

The three-judge panel that initially found the map had been racially gerrymandered already modified its order in March to allow the map to be used during the 2024 election due to the Supreme Court’s delay in resolving the appeal.

“The ideal must bend to the practical,” the panel concluded, citing rapidly approaching deadlines for the primary season and the lack of a new plan. The judges initially found in January 2023 that race was the “predominant motivating factor” when lawmakers moved over 30,000 black residents from one district to another, ruling that Congressional District No. 1 on the resulting map was racially gerrymandered in violation of the 14th amendment.

Republican Rep. Nancy Mace won the district in 2022 by nearly 14 points following the redistricting.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a separate concurrence to express his view that the court “has no power to decide these types of claims.”

“Drawing political districts is a task for politicians, not federal judges,” he wrote. “There are no judicially manageable standards for resolving claims about districting, and, regardless, the Constitution commits those issues exclusively to the political branches.”

“The Court’s insistence on adjudicating these claims has led it to develop doctrines that indulge in race-based reasoning inimical to the Constitution,” Thomas continued.

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Katelynn Richardson is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.

 

 


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