In what’s become something of a recurring theme in these late chapters of the GOP takeover in North Carolina, the US Supreme Court on Monday rejected another controversial proposal out of Raleigh.
As turns out, you can’t just draw a line around black people and call it a Congressional district.
The Supremes upheld a decision by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has been whacking down our legislature’s illegal laws like they’re poorly hit ping-pong balls since 2010, the year the GOP gained majority for the first time in literally a hundred years.
We’ve seen so many laws overturned since then it’s become commonplace, but this one is interesting. For one, Justice Clarence Thomas sided with the liberal side of the court in the 5-3 decision. And the issue at hand is more nuanced than the illegal laws that came before.
At issue were the 12th and 1st districts, held by Rep. Alma Adams and Rep. GK Butterfield respectively. District 1 holds the eastern side of the Virginia border, a cluster of blue counties in the presidential election map. Like District 12, which once ran from Charlotte all the way up to Winston-Salem along Interstate 85, scooping up every African-American neighborhood along the way, it’s a majority-minority district.
This distinction is at the heart of the Republican argument: These districts were originally created along racial lines, so what’s the problem with packing even more black people into them?
It’s enough to satisfy the true believers who make up the party’s base, but really it’s the most sinister sort of jiu jitsu, a cynical move that violates the letter of the law by hairs while completely obliterating the spirit of it.
Majority-minority districts were created in North Carolina when our state, due to decades of well documented and egregious voting-rights violations perpetrated against African-Americans by the General Assembly, was forced to create a pathway for black people to get elected.
The difference between the provisions of the Voting Rights Act and the Republican gerrymander is the difference between opening a door and building a wall.