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Supreme Court Opens the Door for Unchecked Racial Discrimination in Redistricting

Originally published by League of Women Voters

Today the Supreme Court of the United States overturned a lower court’s ruling that South Carolina’s congressional map was an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. The 6-3 decision in Alexander v. South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP allows the state of South Carolina to continue using its congressional map that divides and reduces Black political voting power in the state while increasing the burden on voters who challenge unconstitutional racial gerrymanders in federal court.  

“Today’s ruling is white fragility in action,” said Celina Stewart, chief counsel at the League of Women Voters of the US.  “The Court declares that it is more offensive for voters to claim racism than it is for legislators to racially discriminate. This heinous decision denies Black voters and voters of color the ability to seek justice against racial discrimination in redistricting, and it makes clear that this Court will continue using its power to further erode hard-fought legal protections against racial discrimination in voting.” 

“The League is deeply disappointed with today’s Supreme Court ruling that allows our state to move forward with discriminatory maps that divide the political power of Black communities in Charleston County,” said Lynn Teague, vice president of issues and action at the League of Women Voters of South Carolina. “We believe, without exception, that Black voters in South Carolina deserve justice for our state’s historical and continued efforts to disenfranchise them. The League of Women Voters will continue to fight for voters across South Carolina to be fairly represented.”  

“We are disappointed that the League of Women Voters’ critical mission of promoting fair elections did not win the day,” said Wilson Daniel, attorney at Duffy & Young. “Fair elections are fundamental to the health of our democracy and the wellbeing of our citizenry. And to ensure that elections are fair, those who draw district lines must comport with the Constitution’s promises, including its guarantee of equal treatment under the law. Though the Supreme Court’s decision marks a loss for fair representation in South Carolina, its citizens can feel certain that LWVSC will continue to fight for the voices of South Carolina voters.” 

With this decision, the Court’s conservative majority raises the bar for voters who seek to challenge unjust racist gerrymanders and places the interests of politicians over the very individuals they represent. The Court continues its attack on the ability of Black voters and other voters of color to challenge racial discrimination in voting and redistricting. 

In an out-of-touch and dangerous concurrence, Justice Clarence Thomas calls on the Court to overturn decades of redistricting precedent, including a case that established the bedrock constitutional principle of “one person, one vote.”  

Justice Elena Kagan’s dissent laments that the majority opinion opens the door for egregious and unchecked racial gerrymandering by mapmakers, noting: “If calling out a racial gerrymander ‘accus[es]’ a State of a grave wrong, then so be it. This Court is not supposed to be so fearful of telling discriminators, including states, to stop discriminating.”  

The League of Women Voters of South Carolina filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs, the South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP. The LWVSC amicus brief, which was joined by the Gullah Geechee Chamber of Commerce, the Charleston Branch of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, and the Circular Congregational Church, explored the community of interest in Charleston County that was divided between the First and Sixth Congressional Districts and explored the harm that will result if the challenged map is upheld. 

The League of Women Voters of the United States also joined an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs, along with the Lawyers’ Commitee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Leadership Conference Education Fund, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Campaign Legal Center, Demos, and Southern Coalition for Social Justice.  

The League of Women Voters will continue to fight all forms of racial discrimination in voting — including racial gerrymandering — and advocate for a fair and transparent redistricting process that does not discriminate against historically disenfranchised communities.  

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